Sarah Hodgson, Monday 16 July 2012
Kick starts and kick boxing? 50 laps of the pool and a Marathon run?
Whilst the Olympics have encouraged us all to greater levels in our exercise endeavours, there are still some of us who love – and indeed need – a gentler approach to getting fit. Pilates and Yoga are two systems that require a gentle touch. And whilst you will not raise the hard-won sweat you might from a football match or a rock climb, you will raise a smug smile of satisfaction as your sleep, balance and flexibility improve, your abs trim down, and your limbs get longer and leaner too.
Pilates exercises strengthen not just the outer muscles of the centre of the body but also the deep inner stabilizing muscles of the pelvis, abdomen, and back - the core muscles. The six Pilates principles of movement are centring, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow. It’s easy to emphasise the physical benefits of Pilates - such as flat abs and a longer, leaner look- and whilst these are undeniable gains, Pilates also helps you to move gracefully and efficiently throughout life. And because Pilates exercises increase strength and flexibility they are especially good for those who suffer with bad backs or injuries and for the senior members amongst us as they do not overdevelop or over work any one muscle group.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and originated in ancient India. The most common Western form is Hatha Yoga, where the three main focuses are exercise, breathing and meditation. Asanas are the positions that go together to make up a routine, and there are hundreds of variants to try out. This form of gentle exercise is attributed to lowering blood pressure, improving posture and balance, reducing stress, helping circulation and concentration as well as improving muscle tone.