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Pilates - Q and A with Pilates instructor Ellie Brown

Pilates has been growing in popularity in recent years with classes springing up at every leisure centre and gym - but unless you've tried it yourself you may not have much idea what it is or why it might help. 

Instructor Ellie Brown, who runs her own Pilates studio in London, spoke to Contented Baby to give us the low-down on this fitness method and to explain more about the potential benefits. 

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a challenging yet safe exercise method which relies on
strengthening the core postural muscles. It works by building strength from the inside out, rebalancing the body and bringing it into correct postural alignment. It helps to reshape your body, which will become longer, leaner and more toned. It avoids the muscle and ligament damage, sometimes associated with other fitness regimes. Your body awareness will be heightened by bringing together mind and body. It teaches you to be in control of your body. It should leave you feeling strong, stretched and energised

Is it a bit like yoga?

There are some similarities.

  • Strength. Unlike yoga, Pilates uses resistance and weights to build strength and places more emphasis on physical conditioning. It works all the muscle groups resulting in a leaner, stronger body.
  • Flexibility. Yoga is unsurpassed in enhancing flexibility and increasing
    range of joint motion. Pilates offers a different approach; rather than stretching to improve flexibility, it focuses on why a certain muscle is tight and tries to solve the problem.
  • Abdominals. While yoga does work the abs and core muscles, this isn't by any means a primary focus. Work in this area is much less demanding and painstaking in yoga. Nothing forms and flattens a tummy like Pilates: it has a unique focus on core muscles in the trunk and pelvis, and is one of the best ways to build core strength.
  • Mental wellbeing. Wellbeing is integral to both yoga and Pilates. The physical practice of Yoga gives the body a feeling of balance and wellbeing while Pilates is considered a mind-body exercise and so requires concentration.
  • Back pain. Yoga and Pilates both improve spinal flexibility and strength.
    However, Pilates with its focus on the core is very good for supporting and strengthening the back.

Why has it become so popular in the last few years?

Unlike some forms of exercise, Pilates does not over-develop some parts of
the body and neglect others. While Pilates training focuses on core
strength, it trains the body as an integrated whole. Pilates workouts
promote strength and balanced muscle development as well as flexibility and increased range of motion for the joints.

Attention to core support and full-body fitness including the breath and the
mind provide a level of fitness that is hard to find elsewhere. It is also
the reason that Pilates is so popular in rehab scenarios, as well as with
athletes who find that Pilates is a great foundation for any kind of
movement they do.

Whether you are a senior just starting to exercise, an elite athlete or
somewhere in between, the foundations of Pilates movement apply to you.
Building from core strength, focusing on proper alignment, and a body/mind integrative approach make Pilates accessible to all. With thousands of possible exercises and modifications, Pilates workouts can be tailored to individual needs.

Can anyone do it?

Yes, anyone can do Pilates!

Is it OK for pregnant women?

Pilates is the best exercise during pregnancy because it strengthens the most important muscles women will use during pregnancy and labour. Pregnant Pilates exercises builds abdominal, back and pelvic muscles that support more comfortable pregnancies and deliveries. Pilates is famous for helping new mothers get their figures back.

Pregnant Pilates exercises are not particularly strenuous but you should pay attention to your body and baby and take the exercises at a slower pace. Your body's energy levels will be changing and you don't want to overdo it.  Hormonal changes during pregnancy encourage suppleness in the joints and muscles. Pregnant women experience more strain to the muscles and ligaments because their bodies are making them more 'flexible'. Care must be taken when applying stretches.

The positive elements that Pilates gives during pregnancy are evident and a great number of Pilates followers have testified that doing regular Pilates
classes during pregnancy has helped with shorter labour times and a body which returns to a pre-baby shape more quickly as well as a feeling of a more balanced and stronger body.

What are the health benefits?

There are many benefits of practising Pilates and I have listed a few.

  • Greater joint mobility
  • Improved posture
  • Stress and tension relief
  • Less incidence of back pain
  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Greater strength and flexibility
  • More efficient circulatory and respiratory system
  • Increased bone density
  • Reduction of risk of injury

Can it help you lose weight?

If you practice Pilates regularly, it will change your body. Known for creating long, strong muscles and a leaner look, Pilates helps improve muscle tone, supports beautiful posture, and teaches you to move with ease and grace. All of these things will make you look and feel strong and healthy.

Do you need to go to a class or is it something you can do at home by yourself?

It is always recommended to go to a class although there are some excellent Pilates books and DVDs available. The advantages of being in a class are that you will be personally guided by your teacher and that they can correct you if you are not doing a move correctly.

What should you look for in a Pilates class / teacher?

The classes should be small, no more than 12 and the teacher must hold a
Pilates qualification. It also helps if like your teacher as you will always
enjoy the sessions so much more.

Ellie Brown was first introduced to Pilates while suffering with sciatica during her third pregnancy. She found Pilates helped her considerably and enjoyed it so much that she went on to train with Body Control to become one of their instructors.

She is now a Body Control Pilates supervising teacher and supports and guides new instructors.  Ellie opened the Greenwich Pilates Studio in April 2011and it has been hosting Pilates classes for all levels as well as small 'Mother and Baby' Postnatal Pilates and Pregnancy Pilates.

Ellie is a Qualified Advanced Body Control Pilates Association (BCPA), Pilates Pre and Post-Natal, UK Athletics Level 2 Coach and The Register of Fitness Professionals (REPS) Level 3. Body Control Supervising teacher.

Greenwich Pilates Studio can be found at

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