This is a brief introduction to the basic definitions of Pilates, Yoga, Strength Training and T’ai chi. These are by no means inclusive definitions, but a thumbnail sketch of what is involved with each exercise. Whether you attend group classes or have private instruction, keep and open mind during the entire session. It usually takes between 2–3 classes before people decide if they enjoy the class or its benefits.
Yoga — Practiced in India and Asia for thousands of years, yoga incorporates breath and stretching to lengthen and strengthen your muscles and joints. There are several types of yoga. For example, Hatha yoga focuses on spiritual aspects, including meditation, chanting or affirmations. Bikhram yoga uses heat and careful alignment to produce flexibility and strength. Finally, Ashtanga methods involve synchronizing the breath with progressive series of postures — a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. Regardless of the style of yoga you practice, you use your breath and body weight to enhance resistance, massage your internal organs, and build mental and physical strength.
Pilates — Developed in WWI by Joseph Pilates to keep the troops in shape, Pilates (pul-lot-ease) combines yoga, stretching and calisthenics to increase strength and flexibility. Pilates is known for its effectiveness in creating incredible core strength. Your body’s core is between your shoulders and hips. Pilates emphasizes your abdominals, buttocks, and lower back during every exercise. Balance, alignment, breath and isometric contractions are the basis for building long sleek muscles using Pilates’ techniques. The most common type of Pilates takes place on a mat. However, there is specific equipment designed to create a more advanced workout. Regardless of whether you are using equipment or a simple mat, Pilates is an effective and efficient was to increase your fitness level.
Strength Training — More and more medical research supports the benefits of strength training. Strength training has been proven to reduce cholesterol, type 2 Diabetes, weight, and high blood pressure. And, strength training is the only know natural preventative for osteoporosis. Strength training uses resistance (weights) to physically break down your muscles. Strength training does not mean building bulky muscles (you would have to workout with weights 4+ times a week to bulk up!). It does, however, involve lifting heavy weights for a short amount of time in order to break down your muscles. As your muscles repair themselves they draw from your red blood cells to heal the micro-tears in the muscle mass. The healing process produces an increase in red blood cell production within your bone marrow, resulting in the creation of stronger bone density. Not only does strength training, if performed correctly and safely, decrease the risk of several major diseases, it increases your resting metabolic rate thereby increasing the amount of calories you burn when you are not working out! Because strength training is a completely individual exercise routine, (cardio-pump classes are close but are not true strength training sessions), I strongly suggest consulting a professional fitness trainer before incorporating strength training into your exercise routine.
T’ai Chi — Is an ancient Chinese style of exercise, meditation and self-defense involving controlled breathing and physical movements performed in succession of one another. T’ai Chi (ty-chee) is excellent for stretching and toning muscles, enhancing overall body strength and relieving tension associated with stress and anxiety. Participants experience an increase of physical and mental awareness due to the focus required to execute each movement. Balance, core strength and fluidity are all results of practicing T’ai Chi on a regular basis.
When participating in any exercise program, please consult your physical first. Also, listen to your body; it will tell you if you are doing too little or too much.
Wishing you a strong mind, healthy body and happy spirit,