What do you know about Pilates?

Pilates spain Shanti Som

The in-house Pilates teacher at Shanti Som in Andalucia kindly offers us a deeper knowledge and understanding of this discipline.

What is Pilates and why do it?

It is an ideal activity for those that do not like to sweat in the gym, pilates works the muscles and body elasticity in depth and so does not require heavy workouts. It is recommended as part of the rehabilitation process for those that have suffered bone or muscle injury.

Pilates combines the best of Eastern and Western traditions, it unites the body and mind and considers them as one, total cooperation is needed to achieve complete harmony. The eastern approach focuses on the sense of calm, being centered, the feeling of completeness and emphasizes stretching and flexibility. The Western approach emphasizes movement, muscle tone and strength and merges techniques of yoga, gymnastics and ballet.

If it is your doctor that has recommended you take up Pilates, then check with them which of the two types is most appropriate for you.

What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga?

Yoga means “union” which refers to the union between mind, body and spirit. Joseph Pilates first named his method “Contrology”, complete coordination of mind, body and spirit. Both methods focus on the whole being of each person.

The main differences are the following:

The origin:

Yoga is an ancient discipline originating from India and Pilates is a training system created by Joseph Pilates in the early twentieth century, and is based on yoga and other disciplines such as martial arts and body building, to develop his method.


Is a fundamental principle in both, however in yoga you breathe from the abdomen and the breath is used as a guide which helps the mind to focus on each posture and in turn has a more relaxing effect; in Pilates breathing is from the chest and is responsible for activating the core or powerhouse.


Although both achieve improved posture, muscle elongation as well as physical and mental fitness, in pilates the exercises are focused on strengthening the body and general muscle tone; whilst in yoga it is more focused on relaxation and mental tranquility through the different postures.


In yoga the postures are developed using the extremities (hands, arms, feet and legs) towards the core and in Pilates from the core (powerhouse: abdomen, gluteo and thighs) out towards the extremities.


The practice of yoga encompasses the spiritual component of the person through physical postures, it is a way of life, a philosophy; in pilates, the mental component is taken as consciousness in the body, it is purely physical, as we recall its principles: breathing, control, center, precision, concentration and flow.

What major benefits would you get from Pilates?

The first, and for me the most important benefit is that we become much more aware of our body, and from this we take everything else. Knowing how to disassociate movements and how to activate specific parts of the body is the most important part of having good control of the body.

Working the core or powerhouse as it is known by Pilates practitioners, is full on, as it needs to be active at all times. We are not talking solely about the abdominal area and lumbar zone but also the muscles that at an internal level form the mid section such as the lumbar and transversal muscles.

When practicing Pilates, it is essential to adopt the correct posture (stabilize the shoulder girdle and pelvic area among others) , something that we can easily transfer to our daily lives. Long term this leads to a greater postural position and a better quality of life.

Controlling your breathing is really important when working with Pilates as it is what marks the rhythm of the exercises and their difficulty; this of course will benefit us when doing any sports as being able to control your breathing makes you much more efficient when it comes to any cardiovascular work.

Lastly, by working the pelvic floor it can improve your sex life, with men it can relieve problems with erectile dysfunction and in women having better control of their pelvic floor can help to enjoy sexual relations further.

In short Pilates can have all the following benefits:

It brings vitality and strength.

Greater flexibility, skill, agility and coordination of movements.

A more toned figure.

Correction of poor and harmful postural habits and reduced back pain.

Better self-awareness of the body.

Prevention and rehabilitation of muscle injuries.

Improvements in blood and lymphatic systems.

Reduction of stress level and tension through breath control and concentration.

Can you tell us about the Shanti Som Pilates program, a typical day and how you manage guests with different levels?

All classes are personalised which means that noone has to do exactly the same exercise as their neighbour. You do not have to adapt to a previously planned program rather your instructor will adapt and plan an exercise routine according to your level and your physical condition. This is applied to the type, quantity, intensity and the load of the exercises.

The exercises are varied, Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Spinal Corrector, combined with materials such as balls, magic circle, elastics and foam rollers.

Some exercises are done on the machines and some on floor mats, can you tell us about the machines and when you would use the machines instead of the mats?

– The first great difference between Pilates Mat and Pilates machines, is a financial one as the machines represent a great financial investment for a fitness studio. In addition mat classes tend to be larger groups, (up to 12 people) whereas the machines need to be personalised so group sizes tend to be a maximum of 4 people per instructor.

Mat training is more demanding than those we can do with the equipment ( Reformer , Cadillac, Spinal correction … ), as the latter are there to assist us in different types of exercises, particularly if the client has sever muscle shortening, or muscular weakness. With care the machines can raise the level of difficulty of the exercise and so we can say that the level of precision when using the machines may be higher.

Mat work requires a much greater control and body awareness, in that the only support available is the floor and your body to defy gravity. Mat work involves a foam mat and often uses additional materials such as dumbbells, elastic bands, magic rings, foam rollers and balls.

If you are taking Pilates classes to correct or improve a postural disorder and need special attention it is advisable to start off with individual and customized Pilates Reformer classes and then at a later stage move on to the mats.

If we look back at the history of Pilates we can see that machinery was created to help rehabilitate those with injuries. Over time Joseph Pilates continued to perfect, refine and adapt the equipment to work with them and use them in all situations.

Some say that mat work was created by Joseph Pilates exclusively for dancers, I think it would be fair to say it is optimal for those in good health and with no serious problems in the musculoskeletal system. Mat works aim to challenge the stability of students, train the core and is used to compliment all other physical disciplines.

Another difference is the time it takes to physically see and feel results, with the machines you see changes to muscle definition quicker than with mat work.

Top tips: is there anything special to bear in mind when doing Pilates?

When doing Pilates you much pay special attention to all of the principles because Pilates is movement. Each repetition is a new opportunity to do the exercise better and to connect with yourself.

The principles are:

1 -Control

2 – Breathing

3 – Concentration

4 – Centering

5 – Flow

6 – Precision

Together with 3 additional principles which I received at the BASI Pilates School during my training with Rael Isacowitz

7 – Consciousness

8 – Balance

9 – Efficiency

For further details about Shanti Som´s Pilates Retreat, please follow the link: http://www.spa-in-spain.com/hotels-and-spas/hotel/shanti-som-wellbeing-retreat

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