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I've been doing Pilates for almost 4 years now, and this summer I became certified as an instructor. I now teach Pilates through the YMCA. The benefits are absolutely amazing, both for your body and your mind. I started when my youngest son was just a few months old and the Pilates, (along with my cardio workouts and a healthy diet--sorry, can't get max results without those elements) has not only helped me lose all of the baby weight and then some, but has given me a body I never had even before I had kids. I was always thin, but now I have a slender, toned form with strength and grace I never imagined in myself.

In Pilates, you work on extending and reaching as you engage the muscles, so you develop the long, lean muscles of a dancer as well as incredible strength. By creating space between the vertebrae and learning to lengthen my body, strengthening the core muscles that support my spine, I've actually gained 3/4" in height. I had heard of people getting taller from doing Pilates, but didn't really believe it until I noticed I was looking people who used to be taller than me in the eye. I had my Dr. measure me at my checkup and I had genuinely gained 3/4". That extra height makes a big difference on the BMI charts, but just logically, the taller you are, the more distributed your weight will be. It's why people lie down and suck in to zip up their skinny jeans! :)

Not only is my posture better, but I just carry myself differently. Pilates is a mind/body practice, and a lot of it has do do with learning to tune into your body, becoming aware of different muscles and the alignment of your limbs and joints. I move with an awareness of how my body moves through space that I didn't have before. This brings grace, balance, confidence, and health to even everyday movements.

I would recommend that you get a stong grounding in basic Pilates before you move on to the machines--if ever. I actually find that using resistance equipment hampers my practice, as I rely on the machines to engage my muscles rather than tuning in to my body and adding the engagement myself. You can adjust the intensity of your workout yourself just by visualizing the resistance and engaging your muscles accordingly. It's very easy to go through the motions of Pilates without really engaging the muscles and get no benefit at all. But as you work at adding resistance yourself by flexing and engaging the muscles while extending your limbs from your core out through your extremities, you will find that not only will you increase your intensity and results dramatically, but you will also be using all of the supporting muscles synergistically. It is this synergy of different muscle groups working together that really transforms your body and your movements.

Imagine your limbs moving through wet cement as you push and pull them through each move, initiating each movement from the muscles closest to your core. Don't allow gravity to do the work for you, but visualize yourself squeezing your limbs down as if you're crushing a beach ball between your legs or pulling down a weighted pulley system on a weight machine. As you extend your body, visualize your kids pulling in opposite directions on your arms and legs, stretching and extending your body beyond where you thought you could go. As you find your limits by listening to your body, accept them, but then after holding each extension, see if you can't extend a bit further on an exhaling breath. It's this process of listening to your body and building trust with your muscles that gives you a lot of the mind/body benefits of Pilates.

As you can tell, I've become a bit of a Pilates fanatic, but only because I've experienced the dramatic results firsthand. Good luck to you as you start out on this life-changing practice!

Holy moly, KarenP, you are my hero! I mean, I was pretty much already sold on pilates, but now I'm just freakin' excited about the whole thing. I want everything you mentioned. It's obvious how passionate you are about it -- and with those results who wouldn't be. How often do you do it...or should I say how often should one do it to achieve said results?

Glad I didn't overwhelm you! I tend to get on a bit of a soapbox.

Up until recently I did a 1 hr. Pilates class twice a week. On other days, I did cardio or muscle conditioning classes. It's important to do a variety of modalities to challenge your body in different ways. But I can honestly say that it's the Pilates that I credit most with the results I described above.

Currently, I actually only do Pilates once a week (the class I teach), though some of the moves are mixed into my other workouts. I've replaced the other Pilates "slot" in my schedule with a Yoga class, which I love as well. I'd love to do it every day, but there's the reality of the rest of my schedule that just makes that a bit too hard right now! I'm sure you can relate!

I'd say try to do it at least 2x/week, as long as you're doing other workouts as well, particularly a good calorie-burning cardio workout. You can have beautifully toned muscles, but if they're hiding under a layer of fat, nobody's going to see them! If you can work in a little bit every day--even 15 minutes of basic moves every morning or every night, you'll see even better results.

Good luck!

So ladies, I stumbled across this googling breathing and Pilates, and of all things, I'm in SW PDX and have looked in the window of that Moving Moxie studio, ha! I'll have to try it. :) Karen, I'm hoping you can clarify the problem I've always had when taking Pilates classes (just rec center): I can't figure out how to breathe! I feel like I'm holding my breath, and am unclear on when I'm supposed to be breathing IN since all the exercises make you breathe out. What am I missing here?
Thanks for any advice!! :)

Hi GermanJenn! I'm not sure Karen will be back here since RSM is now 'inactive.' But Jenny at Moving Moxie has told us to not worry so much about breathing until we get more familiar with the rhythm of the exercises. Plus, she tells us when to breathe. Literally, with every movement she says to breathe in or out, so that is very helpful. I've taken about 6 classes now and I'm finally feeling more comfortable with the breathing. Hope this helps!

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