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What is Physio-Led Pilates?

Everyone seems to have heard of Pilates, but what is it really? And what is different about “Physio-Led” Pilates?

The Pilates method is a technique that emphasises the importance of beginning movement from a central core of stability (low back and pelvis region), and combining it with awareness of breath, concentration, precision and control. It aims to promote strength, flexibility, endurance and body awareness.

Joseph Pilates originally created the Pilates Method in the 1920s (then called Controlology) as he came to believe that the "modern" lifestyle, bad posture, and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. He also believed that injuries were caused by muscle imbalances in the body and habitual patterns of movement. He ultimately devised a series of exercises and training techniques, that would allow the exerciser to alter abnormal patterns of movement, correct muscle imbalances, and get carryover into normal daily living activities, by concentrating on precision of movement and focusing on the breathing cycle in a continuous flowing sequence. He created 34 exercises that consist of strength, mobility and stretching that would be completed on an exercise mat (matwork). He then took the concepts of matwork into spring loaded resistance machines which he originally designed for machine based work: the most widely used Pilates machine is the Reformer.

20 years ago two Australian Physiotherapists then established the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute (APPI). They found that the benefits of the original Pilates exercises were not being optimised due to the high level of strength, control and body awareness that was required to perform the exercises. They spent time modifying the movements: reducing the lengths of the levers involved with a lot of the movements (bending the arms or legs instead of keeping them straight as in the original Controlology method), paying more attention to the demands placed on the spine during the movements, and using the findings of relevant research regarding how muscles work before and after pain. They then applied these ideas to the original 34 Controlology exercises and found a new form of Pilates-based exercise that could be more successful in rehabilitation.

They developed a scalable approach to the exercises, meaning that each exercise could be modified according to an individual’s ability, and they could easily progress through the levels of exercises. It meant that Pilates became suitable for anyone, regardless of their fitness level, injury state or age. It is a very popular method of rehabilitation training, but

it also has many other benefits: from the weightlifter who wants to develop more stability to catch a heavy lift, to the gymnast who wants to maintain their flexibility and endurance, to the grandmother who wants to be able to pick up her granddaughter safely, to the child with hypermobility who needs to improve their strength.

There are lots of other methods of Pilates including Stott, Balanced Body and Reformer, but the APPI method (or physio-led Pilates) is built on a physiotherapist’s understanding of movement, anatomy and physiology, and it is the only Pilates programme in the world that was fully designed, taught and developed by physiotherapists.

I am APPI trained and love teaching their method, with a few little tweaks and a bit of improvisation to make the exercises more specific and relevant to a person, or group of people. I love teaching 1:1 sessions as we can really individualise programmes and sequences of exercises, and in these COVID-19 times some people may prefer it to group sessions. I also teach a Pilates for CrossFit class for members of the gym I go to, which means we spend a lot of time focussing on creating a stable core that can endure long and taxing workouts, and working those accessory muscles. I am aiming to complete my ante and postnatal Pilates course very soon, and am on the lookout for somewhere I can teach more classes. I just want to keep people moving!

For more information about the Pilates I offer please get in touch.

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