Fitness Health

The benefits of Yoga & Pilates

I’m sure anyone who knows me knows my LOVE of Yoga and Pilates! When I first started taking Pilates 15 years ago it was literally a God send. My back had been worse than it’s ever been in my life. I had difficulty sitting, standing, walking, or doing much of anything for any length of time. I’d been to see multiple different  doctors to figure out what was going on. With the help of my first amazing chiropractor and a sports massage therapist I recovered. But it wasn’t until I went to see a back surgeon that I figured out what I was doing wrong when it came to exercise. I had been doing advanced yoga along with some light running and heavy weights. He told me what I’d been doing was all wrong for my back. Running and very heavy weights were putting too much stress on my joints and yoga was stretching out the ligaments and muscles supporting those joints too much. He said I should be twice as strong as I was flexible, tough to do for someone who even with a sore back could bend herself into a pretzel!


This is when I discovered Pilates. All the strength, with half the stretching and much lighter weights! The stronger my core got, the better my back stayed. I then found some other forms of yoga that are more strength related and less super stretchy and voila! A new me was born!


Here’s a list of some more of the Benefits of Pilates and Yoga:

1. It Builds a strong Core


Strengthening all your core muscles or the Powerhouse as it’s called in Pilates is the main goal. Stronger abs, lower back and glutes not only help you look good naked, they help support your spine and prevent low back pain. That’s why those with chronic lower back pain who practiced Pilates for just four weeks experienced more relief than those who visited a physician and other specialists, says a Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy study. What’s more, their pain stayed away for a full year post-Pilates. Researchers believe that by stabilizing the core’s lumbar-pelvic (lower-back) region, Pilates alleviates stress on the area and ups mobility. Plus, with a stronger core, you can run faster, your yoga is on point, and overall, the rest of your workouts improve.


Yoga has similar core strengthening benefits, while not quite as dramatic your abdominal and back muscles do become quite a bit stronger from poses like, Plank, Side Plank, Boat and with Sun Salutations.

2. It tones your entire body while being easy on your joints


Lifting heavy weights can take a toll on your joints and connective tissue. And the older we get, the less shock absorbency we have between our joints, the more we have to protect it or suffer the consequences. Pilates’ slow and controlled movements puts minimal impact on your joints. Plus the use of bands, balls, light weights and the Pilates Circle using more repetitions still creates strength and improves muscle tone but in a gentler way.


Yoga does this with even less stress on your body. Using only your own body weight and concentrating on slow controlled movements couples with poses you hold over the course of several breaths, improves strength. Many yoga poses require you to bear your body weight in new ways, including balancing on one leg (as in tree pose) or supporting yourself with your arms (as in downward facing dog). Holding these poses helps build muscular strength.

3. It makes you more flexible


In one Brazilian study, when young women (without any prior Pilates experience) performed 20 Pilates sessions, they became 19.1 percent more flexible. When you’re tight, you shorten your muscle and limit your body’s range of motion, which at best, can hurt your exercise performance. At worst, it can cause injury. Plus having a more back, hips and hamstrings will improve your spinal health and alleviate low back pain.


One of the most well-known benefits of yoga is increased flexibility. Keeping your joints, tendons, and muscles limber is essential for avoiding injuries, and for decreasing pain and tension throughout the body. For example, many people suffering from arthritis find relief from pain and stiffness through yoga. Greater flexibility also improves body alignment, creating better posture while decreasing back and neck pain.

4. It Boosts Your Brainpower


Joseph Pilates called his workout method “the thinking man’s exercise.” and research has shown he was right. When Chinese researchers measured changes in women’s brain activity after 10 weeks of Pilates training, they found an increase in the brain’s alpha peak power, which is related to neural network activity, memory performance, and other cognitive functions. Researchers believe Pilates may even hold potential as a treatment option for people with brain-degenerative diseases and cognitive dysfunctions. Pilates urges you to focus on 1) your breath, 2) your body, and 3) how they move together. It takes a lot of concentration, you can’t do it properly and just zone out.


Researchers found that people did better — both speed-wise and accuracy-wise — on brain functioning tests after just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga, compared with aerobic exercise. The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath.meditation and breathing exercises are known to reduce anxiety and stress, which in turn can improve scores on some cognitive tests.

5. It can relieve stress


Pilates tremendous amount of concentration forces you to forget about work, bills, boyfriends, and other drama for a full hour, also making it quite a stress reliever!


But Yoga’s stress relief has been well documented. In fact, multiple studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone.  Several studies also show that practicing yoga can lead to a decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression.

6. It Makes Sex Better


When we Pilates instructors say, “lift your pelvic floor,” what they are really saying is “do Kegels”. Pilates moves like those strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to up your pleasure in the bedroom. You can have way better orgasms with Pilates making for amazing sex.  If you’re trying to conceive with all of that out-of-this-world sex, strong pelvic floor muscles can make pushing out a baby way easier too. Some women have been reported as saying ‘the baby flew out of my vagina during labour!’


Yoga’s core strengthening power along with increased flexibility will have a noticeable positive affect on your sex life too. When working on standing positions that force you to support your own body weight (like warrior and balancing poses), you’re using your pelvic floor muscles to support you. What this translates to is anywhere from 10-40 minutes of kegel exercises per yoga class — or repeatedly contracting the muscles used when you urinate. As we all know, daily kegels can give you much stronger orgasms, so if that’s not an incentive to break out the yoga mat, I’m not sure what is.


I will be doing both Yoga and Pilates most of my days on vacation, along with spending a lot of time walking, hiking, and kayaking for cardio. There will be days when we’re busy traveling and not moving around much, on those days I will add some jumps in my workout routine to get my heartrate up, but most of the time my workouts will center around keeping my back healthy.


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