Pilates is a method of movement based on the principles of breathing, control, centering, postural alignment, concentration, precision and flow. Pilates is not only a form of exercise but an approach to teaching individuals how to move in a safe, efficient, controlled way with maximal awareness. Pilates has been shown to help individuals improve their alignment, strength and flexibility.
While Pilates exercises can be extremely challenging, they can also be very simple. These simple exercises should not be underestimated, as they are the foundation of building body awareness and core stability. So often when exercising, we go through movements without awareness of our breath and with too little control. By slowing down our movement, increasing our precision, and initiating movement from our center we can move more efficiently and maximize our benefit from each movement.
When taught by a skilled Pilates instructor, Pilates can be safe for nearly any individual. Depending on your pathology, Pilates exercises can be modified to fit your needs. In individuals with low back pain or pathology, Pilates exercises can be modified to maintain a neutral spine, avoiding extreme flexion, extension, side-bend and rotation in order to limit load to the spine, discs and ligaments. By teaching controlled, precise movement, Pilates exercises are designed to strengthen while minimizing load to our spine and joints. Specific Pilates programs can be designed for clients with osteopenia or osteoporosis, spondylolisthtesis, disc pathology or mechanical low back pain, among other conditions.
Additionally, Pilates programs emphasize flexibility and mobility of our joints, specifically our hips, which in turn allows for optimal movement and mechanics, reducing risk of low back pain or injury. Another benefit of Pilates is the ability to increase awareness of how to move optimally during daily activities. Learning how to align and stabilize the spine while lifting a toddler or a suitcase, getting in and out of your car or skiing down a slope can help you reduce your risk of injury and improve the efficiency and safety of your movements and every day activities.
Amber Davenport, DPT, Aspen Club Sports Medicine Clinic, earned her doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Her specialty treatment areas are orthopedics, sports medicine, and women’s health physical therapy. Learn more about Ms. Davenport here.