by Farah Merani
Nothing makes me feel more flexible and strong than an hour of Reformer Pilates. Sure, the machine may look like an ancient torture contraption with its pulleys and straps, wheels and springs, but once you get over its ominous appearance and try it for yourself, you’ll see how and why all of those bits and pieces are so beneficial for your hips, core, arms, legs, spine and mind. Basically, to all of you.
Named after the creator, Joseph Pilates, the system was developed in the 1920s as a way of rehabilitating prisoners of war, and he started with himself. Pilates’ original approach was inspired by the Greek ideal of a balanced mind, body and spirit, and he had begun to incorporate this principle into his own practice. He refined his system while he was interred as a prisoner of war in Britain. By attaching springs to the hospital beds as Pilates demonstrated, patients were able to use their own bodyweight as resistance without the use of traditional barbells and weights. This was the inspiration for what came to be the reformer machine as we know it now.
Today, most fitness clubs offer some variation of Mat Pilates (Pilates done on mats as opposed to machines) in their exercise class schedules. While Mat classes can be tremendously effective at targeting core muscle groups, you won’t get the same emphasis on range of motion, strength and flexibility as you do on a reformer. Studios that specialize in Reformer classes can offer you the expertise of highly trained instructors and a wide array of levels. Because Reformer machines are expensive, require a certified instructor for proper use and need more regular maintenance than other pieces of gym equipment, it’s best to take class at a reputable studio.
Perhaps the best introduction to these machines is to do a one-on-one session. You’ll get an hour of personalized assessment, start building a solid foundation on the basics of Pilates, and get some specific guidance on what works best for you and your body. Because of its origins as a rehabilitative system, Pilates is a great element to incorporate into your program if you’re dealing with any chronic issues like bursitis or joint problems. As with any type of physical exercise, always consult with a doctor or medical expert before beginning a new program.