Pilates offers important physical and mental benefits for everybody

By Hilary Dartt • Photos by Trisha Shaffer

The dictionary defines Pilates as “a system of exercises using special apparatus, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, and enhance mental awareness.”

According to Heather Burgoyne, owner of SOAR Pilates & Wellness in Prescott, the actual practice is all that and so much more … and everyBODY can benefit.

The physical benefits of Pilates are fairly clear—strength, flexibility, balance, and control. Pilates, Heather said, is different from traditional weight-bearing exercises in that it complements contraction with extension, strength with flexibility. Thus resulting in long, lean muscle building and increased mobility throughout the body.

“Some people come in with an ailment,” Heather said, “and some want a different routine, to shake things up a bit.”

For those with an ailment—low back pain, joint injuries, and post-surgery are common—Pilates offers a gentle and supportive approach to a powerful method of building up core strength.

“The most common ailment I get is people coming in complaining about low back pain,” Heather said. “With low back pain, one thousand percent your core is weak.”

In addition to the superficial “core muscles” most people know about—abdominals, obliques, and back extensors—the Transversus Abdominus (TA), also known as the “corset muscle,” is at work almost all the time (any time someone is sitting or standing). Lack of strength in that muscle contributes to back pain and bad posture.

“In today’s lifestyle, we’re rounding forward so much,” she said, citing sitting all day and using computers and mobile devices. “To really hold yourself upright, you need your core to support you.”

Thanks to exercises that engage the deep core (that TA muscle), Pilates can help with that. These same exercises improve balance.

Pilates is a great practice to complement other forms of exercise, she said, because the choreography not only gets the body moving in lots of different ways but also the mind.  “It’s the best full-body workout you can get.”

Pilates deepens the mind-body connection, Heather said, since it requires people “to connect to your own body and where you’re actually moving from to do the exercise properly.”

Simple awareness of daily habits can help people heal their bodies.

“The exercises are so challenging in such a vulnerable way. You have to trust yourself to be able to do it. If you’re not in that moment, you’re just going to literally fall on your face.”

That intense focus requires true presence, Heather said. “You forget about your to-do list, what your mind was worried about. That mental exercise for the brain is something we don’t get to do a lot.”

“Once you do that, you see that not only do you feel better, but you can do more things throughout your life.”

Heather’s first love is Pilates … but, she said, the benefits of exercise in general are great: “When you achieve something, you just feel so much better about yourself. In your life, you go about your day ready to receive something. You project good energy because you feel good. You’re radiating, and you don’t even realize it.”

For information on wellness supplements SOAR Pilates & Wellness carries, see Supporting Whole Health, page XX.

SOAR Pilates & Wellness is at 340 W. Willis St., Suite 2 in Prescott. Learn more at https://soarpilates.com.