“Pilates”s sounds like it could be a new type of breath mint, but those in the know at gyms around the world can tell you that Pilates is actually a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, in Germany. The Pilates method seeks to increase the strength, flexibility and control of the body. Mr. Pilates he believed that his method could use the mind to control the muscles.
Let me say right up front that I have limited experience with Pilates. My initial introduction, in a structured Pilates class (which focused significantly on abs I didn’t have enough of), left me feeling pretty faint. I didn’t much like it. But Pilates is practiced by more than 11 million people around the world who love the results.
Which brings me to the point of this post: beautiful Brooke Siler. She is a celebrity Pilates guru, responsible for the toning and re-shaping of some of the world’s most famous bodies including: Zooey DesChanel, Madonna, Kirsten Dunst, Liv Tyler, and Rachel Weisz. She’s also the author of The New York Times bestseller – The Pilates Body (Broadway Books/2000). Over the years, Silver has created other audio, video and weight/fitness products, too.
I recently received a copy of her second book, released in 2006: Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge (Broadway Books). I also received a copy of her first DVD: Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners. Siler is not just obviously fit (and that, after two babies), she is obsessed with fitness. She owns a Pilates’ studio, re:AB in her native New York City where she impressed upon her clients that exercise is more than just physical exertion but an opportunity for mental and physical alignment, “My interest is in showing people that Pilates will forever change the way you walk, run, sit, stand, look and feel. And the Pilates mat work can be done anywhere!” exclaims Siler.
Yes, that’s true, but Pilates might not be for everyone, everywhere. Brooke’s book: Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge, starts out with exercises on a circuit of machines (“using Pilates techniques to maximize your gym workout”, She does have plenty of “at home” exercises that need minimal, or no, equipment as well. For example, she also includes a few mat routines created specifically to target abs, lower body, posture, and flexibility.
This is all good and well for the person who already in familiar with Pilates and knows how to do it properly. But even if you are a non-Pilates devotee, or a rank beginner, there is a section I really think is worth the entire book. Siler shows you things you can do using her trademark “Invisible Workout.” In this section, you can find a host of ways to add Pilates-based movements into everyday activities to help maximize your fitness. Silver shows you how you can get maximum benefits out of doing the things you’d do every day, anyway (e.g. —such standing at the photocopy machine at work, and watching TV, commuting on bus or subway, and even carrying your shoulder bag! When someone shows me how I can make life a little better with simple changes, I’m all for it!I also received a copy of the DVD: Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners. At a suggested retail price of just $14.99 it’s an inexpensive way to get an expert’s advise and training. Determined to put less than lovely, first Pilates experience behind me, I gamely popped it into my DVD player, and checked it out.
The workouts starts with Brooke doing exercises in a beautiful, tropical garden that appears to overlook the sea. It’s lovely to look at. There is some Pilates-inspired cardio, for about 18-minutes and it was a great warm-up, although I’d generally consider 20 minutes to half an hour as the minimum for a cardio routine. But then again, it’s a Pilates cardio routine, not your run of the mill, local gym class. I felt my shoulders cracking, and then, relaxing. Most of it was really pleasant.
But what came next was a workout that looks easy, until you try it. I stopped, fearful that I’d pull something. When I think of beginner, I usually think of someone who doesn’t know anything about a subject and wants to learn it, but when it comes to something like Pilates, beginner means someone who already know a thing or two. You’d do best with this if you already had some tough abs, and not a complete neophyte. If you were in Brooke’s studio class, the chances of getting seriously hurt or pulling something would be minimized because she would be watching. But when you’re home, watching a DVD, you don’t have anyone to correct your position or tell you if you’re doing something wrong. This is one of my issues with all fitness DVDS, and Brooke does a good job of explaining the moves, but some of them (e.g. a neck lift) done wrong, could bring you days or weeks, of woe. Just to be sure it wasn’t my opinion alone, I consulted my personal trainer, who knows quite a bit about the subject. She agreed the DVD was good, but confirmed my feeling that it is best for an experienced Pilates beginner. These issues aside, it’s a good DVD that gives you a good introduction Pilates control, concentration, precision, center, breath, and fluidity.
….or why not go to a Pilates class first and get some of the basics down, before you work out at home, alone, with a DVD…you might fall in love, or at least in love with the way your body looks and feels. You might also consider Brooke’s newly re-launched AB Pilates® Teacher Training Program and re:AB C.E.N.T.E.R., an initiative to foster involvement in the Pilates® community and cultivate professional excellence through innovative workshops and clinics with the top experts and luminaries in the Pilates® world. Visit Brooke’s reAB web site to shop, find out about classes, and learn more.
*I use provided samples for most of my reviews. Learn more in the “A Note About Compensation” section of the Advice Sisters What Works Beauty, Cosmetics and Fashion Review column