24/10/2012 12:42 BST | Updated 23/12/2012 05:12 GMT

Pilates for a Better Body

Having spent the last 12 years combining personal training with Pilates, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of different bodies, and can say with absolute certainty that no two bodies are the same, or even close to the same!

Our lifestyle and experience is etched deeply into our muscular system, and fears, pains and stress can really affect the way that our bodies function. Years of stress can fundamentally change how you breathe, years of worry can alter your posture and muscle balance, physical pain can affect the body long after the pain has passed, and emotional pain can manifest in a real, physical pain.

So, how can you prevent, or reverse these changes to get your body back in balance? Do Pilates! Joseph Pilates knew how trans-formative his exercises were because he changed his own body from weak, frail and out of balance (he suffered Polio, asthma and other ailments during his youth) into a strong physique which was used as a model for anatomical charts! He knew that improving posture, breath, strength and mobility was the key to a better body, and this has been proven by the method's popularity almost 80 years later. Some of my own clients have been able to cancel knee surgery due to better movement, regain their bodies after pregnancy, improve their performance in tennis and other sports, take control of back pain, reduce stress and anxiety on a long-term basis, improve their posture, recover from surgeries and improve their movement, confidence, sleep and life balance.

Why Pilates?

Pilates teaches you how to move efficiently and how your body should feel when it's in balance. Each session will move your spine through it's full (as nature intended) range of motion: flexion, extension and rotation. Pilates will teach you how your body feels when it is working correctly, and in time you will learn to recognise faulty movements that can cause injury.

Many people find it almost impossible to 'let-go' of muscle tension, and this can exacerbate faulty movement patterns. However, with time and patience you can teach your body how to 'switch-off' certain muscles allowing tension to dissipate and the correct muscles to do their intended job.

My advice if you are new to Pilates is to find a great teacher. Any class with more than 10/12 people will not give you the desired effect, as your teacher needs to see how you are moving. Private classes are the ideal, but if this is too expensive then ask a friend to split sessions with you as very small groups of 2 or 3 can be as effective as private sessions. Another great route is to invest in 3 or 4 private sessions to learn the basics and then continue your practice in a class or with a DVD at home. Whichever route you take, whether you are old or young, overweight or underweight, recovering from illness or a full time athlete, Pilates can help your body to perform at its very best, helping you to find your inner grace and strength.

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