The Health Benefits of Pilates and Yoga

 

During a spa day, you have the option of trying out different group classes to incorporate some health benefits of fitness into your stay.  While one class isn’t going to dramatically improve your fitness levels, it’s an ideal opportunity to try out a new class to assess if it’s something you want to slot in to your everyday life.  If you’re new to exercise and really can’t imagine yourself pounding up and down on a trampoline to music or cycling furiously on a stationary bike, perhaps you need to consider some low impact options such as Pilates and yoga.  Not that they are less effective – quite the opposite. 

Pilates is a very popular type of exercise that is suitable from the beginner to the advanced.  It is based on a series of exercises which focus on strengthening your inner core muscles to improve body awareness, balance, and suppleness.  Another key health benefit of Pilates is that the strengthened inner core muscles result in a much stronger back.  When you consider how many days are lost from work due to a bad back, Pilates is a great exercise option to ensure you don’t fall prey to this problem.

Pilates is normally mat based, and you perform a number of slow and sustained stretches and exercises, focusing clearly on correct breathing techniques and controlling the abdominal muscles as you move your arms and legs.  The weight of your own body is used to provide resistance to the exercise rather than using external weights.  It’s not all about a large number of repetitions but more about focusing on each position to get the most benefit from it.

Whilst it might sound easy peasy, people are often surprised at the muscular work out they receive from Pilates classes.  Regular Pilates classes ensure that you hold your body in the correct position to minimise strains, and your increased suppleness helps prevent musculoskeletal injuries.  Your overall physical co-ordination is improved and what appeals to many people is that it doesn’t bulk you up, unlike many weight lifting exercises.  In our sedentary lives, many hours are spent driving or hunched over a computer without much thought to our body’s position.  But long term improper posture can lead to niggly aches and pains, and more seriously to a weakness of the postural muscles – so Pilates is just a fabulous work out to incorporate into your life.

Yoga is similarly a low impact, mat based exercise but differs from Pilates in that it is made up of static postures.  Yoga originated in India thousands of years ago.  It was originally used to obtain spiritual enlightenment, but has now been embraced all over the world because of its many health and relaxation benefits. There are many styles of yoga practiced nowadays ranging from improving fitness to those with a mainly meditative element, although all are based on the same postures or poses.

Traditional yoga focuses on holding these specific postures and controlling the breathing with the objective of harmonizing the energies in the body’s chakras to attain peace of soul, body and mind.    However some more zappy yoga types include Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga which include link movements between each posture – this results in a faster paced exercise, with the additional benefit of raising the heart rate.

Some of the key health benefits of yoga are to increase flexibility and tone the muscles.    The gentle stretching of joints and muscles during an exercise class improves delivery of blood to all parts of the body which helps in the removal of toxins to aid in detoxification.  The meditative aspects lead to clarity of mind and relaxation which are incredibly important and beneficial in today’s hectic lifestyle.

When you are next on a spa visit, try out one of these low impact classes and see what you think.  Fitness isn’t all about racing around like a maniac, and for some people high impact classes are a real turn off.  Maybe you will find that the understated exercises of Pilates and yoga suit you – and if they do, start to include them in your regular routine so you can enjoy the amazing health benefits, feel far more at one with the world and have an increased zest for life.

 

 

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