Unraveling the wonders of Pilates in times of lockdown

Eman Youssef, Sunday 26 Apr 2020

Instructor Heba El-Aaser explains how Pilates can change your life and improve your health while staying home

Instructor Heba El-Aaser explains how Pilates can change your life and improve your health while staying home

What is the importance of including Pilates in our lifestyle or daily routine?

Sedentary lifestyle is extremely dangerous physically, and psychologically as well. Practicing sports, and specifically Pilates, as part of our daily routine is a mood booster.

On the physical level, it improves our physical well-being in many ways as it keeps us strong and active and improves our blood circulation. It is very easy to practice at home, as you just need a mat, and can follow the instruction online, especially during this period when we all have to stay at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
We all need to exercise in order to boost our energy and blood circulation to fight the virus.

What are the basics of Pilates for those who do not know about it?

Pilates is a movement practice. It's a very restorative yet challenging physical practice. Through a set or wide range of exercises, Pilates aims at improving the practitioner's strength, endurance, as well as flexibility. It is suitable for everyone: athletes, seniors, male and female, people of different fitness levels and goals, can do Pilates as it will challenge everyone differently. 

How and when did you become a Pilates instructor?

I started this journey five years ago. I am originally an economics graduate with a Masters degree in marketing. After a corporate career in consumer research for 10 years, I wanted to pursue my passion. I love practicing Pilates and I love coaching people and teaching in general, so being a Pilates instructor sounded like a great idea. Pilates is relatively new in Egypt and I wanted to have solid ground to start off this career, so I studied and became an internationally-certified Pilates instructor and founder of a Pilates studio.

What are the health benefits of Pilates?

Pilates in the early days was known as “contrology," because it teaches us how to have full control over every single muscle in our bodies. It emphasises proper postural alignment, core strength and muscle balance. It improves breathing patterns, which impacts the whole human body. 

Who are the best candidates to practice Pilates?

It is literally for everyone. It is for athletes and Olympic champions and also for older people. It serves multiple fitness goals and can be modified to people with injuries and help them recover. 

Do men also practice Pilates?

There is a famous hashtag, #mendopilates, and above all the creator of Pilates was a man named Joseph Pilates.
Even for men who play other sports, doing Pilates as part of their workout routine will improve their performance in other types of training and exercises.

Tell us more about the background of Pilates and its history? 

Pilates was initially created by a German genius called Joseph Pilates, back in 1920. He developed a complete system that develops the human mind and body. Over the decades it became a common practice and a type of sport.  Pilates can be done on a mat or using Pilates equipment, such as the reformer, ladder barrel, wunda chairs and spine corrector. The reformer is the most popular piece of equipment and the most commercially used.

What is your advice to people who want to start classes?

At first, we have to understand why they want to workout and what are their fitness goals, and then guide them on how Pilates can help them. It is for everyone, but there is also a variety of classes, so we need to direct them to classes they would enjoy the most, in order to encourage them to continue with consistency. 

What is the main target you find people have in virtual classes?

We help people to look more into their overall wellness rather than the weight loss element. Weight loss is just a result of various healthy practices. People are more aware now and once they start practicing Pilates and experience the impact it has on their bodies they find it very rewarding. 

Do you consider Pilates an easy or difficult sport?

Actually, it is an open level practice: there are modifications for every single exercise and it can be suitable for those who have physical challenges or different abilities, and it can be challenging to peak performance athletes. It really depends on how we utilise it and how we design the class or the programme for every individual according to his or her needs. 

Is Pilates becoming more popular now?

There is literally a Pilates studio in every corner of Europe, in the United States and even in Asia. In Egypt it is very new, but people are starting to become more aware of it.

How can people change their mood and enjoy their lives more through Pilates?

Pilates is a mind-body workout. It teaches the mind how to control the body in a different way. And it teaches the body a new language to speak. Once you can control your mind, you can control your mood, so your body feels strong and pain free. 

How often should we do Pilates per week?

As a start, exercising two hours per week (which is two sessions) is perfect. It has to be done regularly and consistently.

When it is better to do the exercises?

Every human body performs differently. Some people feel energetic in the morning while others have more energy towards the end of the day, so it really differs from one person to another. 

How can someone become a Pilates instructor? 

There are many schools of Pilates that offers professional courses. Those interested must find a school that fits their style and career goals as a Pilates instructor. For example, some schools are classical while others are very contemporary in approach. 

What are the most important qualifications of a good coach?

Working with human bodies is a huge responsibility and every coach has to understand that. Having a good eye to observe your trainees is a key skill that every coach must have and it makes all the difference in their practice and progress. 

Is there a certain age to reach, or a limit, for people who want to start Pilates class?

Kids can do Pilates and older adults too. One of my mentors from the US is 70 years old and her practice is incredible. She is in the healthiest form possible thanks to her Pilates practice. Pilates is the answer for so many health issues and it is also the solution if you want a challenge.  

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