Cara McGrath Pilates

What is Pilates and how can it benefit me?

What is PIlates?

Pilates is a system of physical and mental conditioning that can enhance your physical strength, flexibility and coordination as well as reduce stress, improve mental focus and foster an improved send of well being.

How can it benefit you?

Each of the Pilates exercises will teach you a new movement skill, gradually developing your body awareness, increasing your strength and flexibility, improving your posture and coordination.

Basic Principals

In order to practice Pilates effectively it is important to follow the basic principals to the method


Breathing is a movement process in itself and therefore has a great bearing on the efficiency of each exercise performed. Synchronising the movement with the breath is a key part of Pilates.


Correct alignment throughout the movement is essential. By correctly aligning the body and bringing joints and soft tissue into their natural neutral zones, sound recruitment patterns are encouraged and the joints remain healthy.


Thoughtful awareness of your whole body as you perform the movement is key


Each movement in Pilates should be performed purposefully with control .


Pilates exercises should be controlled, graceful and flowing, lengthening outwards from a strong centre.


Also referred to as “core stability”. All Pilates movements stem from a strong centre. Pilates encourages the recruitment of deep core muscles that help to control and stabilise the movement .


Is key to the Pilates approach to movement and to the infinite corrections that need to be implemented through the learning process. Often the exercise can be similar to another exercise regimen, but the way it is executed is different.

Where do I begin?

It is essential that you book into your first course of Pilates in advance in order to: 

  •  Give yourself a chance to discuss your general medical background with your instructor in private so that you can get the most benefit from the class
  • Avoid disappointment in the event that the class is full when you arrive
  • Ensure that you are attending the correct class for your level
  • Ensure that you are aware of any changes to the timetable


Most frequent questions and answers

The first exercise you do is “the hundreds” which consists of 10 breaths of 10 counts to equal 100. You lie on the floor, lift your legs up to about a 45 degree angle, or wherever you can hold them, and keep your back flat. While holding your legs in the air you engage the abdominals and lift your head and shoulders off the mat so you are in a scoop. Then you pump your arms by your side, almost as if you were slapping on water, pumping them up and down.

Because both your legs and head are up in the air it forces the blood to go to your heart and pumping your arms back and forth forces the blood through your body. You’re getting your circulation going and stimulating your organs making it both an internal and an external workout.

Be consistent, especially in the beginning. Don’t just try it once. Give it a few shots and do it in succession. Make it your reward, your break from a hectic day. Also, listen to your body and really concentrate — it makes for a better workout.

Someone once told me that you need to “arrive” for Pilates, meaning you have to be there mentally as well as physically. To get the most out of Pilates, you have to be very present. Your body and mind will thank you.

Pilates is different from most exercises out there because it’s non-impact and safe, and it really works on using the body as a whole. You’re either lying on your back, on your side or kneeling on the floor where it’s safe. When you move the body, you’re trying to move it from the powerhouse, using your abdominal wall to protect your back. You’re also working the body very evenly and symmetrically, making sure one side is not working harder than the other.

There’s definitely a mind-body connection and a very similar fluidity in both. But one difference is that there’s a whole line of equipment in Pilates that doesn’t exist in yoga, so it provides a different angle: You’re doing exercises with the assistance and resistance of springs and pulleys. The springs may assist you or they may make an exercise more difficult, depending on the exercise.

I can’t say that it’s great for everyone in every scenario, but in my experience, I’ve only had clients feel better after doing it. Injuries begin to cause less discomfort or go away completely.

Pilates can help you lose weight, get relief from back pain, tone your trouble spots, or recover from injury. 

Initially the workout is slow moving because everything is being explained to you. Eventually, once you learn the workout and you’re going through the motions, it becomes aerobic. You can get a cardiovascular workout when you’re on the equipment and working on an advanced level because it’s more physical. And some classes and Pilates DVDs alternate classic Pilates moves with sequences of heart-rate boosting exercises for a double-duty effect. You have to work towards it, but Pilates can be cardiovascular.

Pilates has completely transformed my body and the bodies of most of my clients. I think it comes from using the powerhouse and really focusing on and strengthening the abdominal wall, teaching it to lay flat and be strong. If the stomach is sticking out, you’re going to train it to stick out. In Pilates you’re always thinking of this inward pull as if the navel is going in towards the spine and then lifting up slightly, pulling all of your abdominal wall very flat.

You also make long, fluid, larger motions that lengthen and stretch the muscles.

If you’re consistent with it and make a commitment to yourself, you can see a change in your body.

Pilates is safe enough to do every day. Initially you may want to do it every day so you get a rhythm and become consistent; then a good goal is to do it every other day. Joseph Pilates used to say to do it three times a week.

Feeling sore is a very individual thing. Some people don’t feel sore. Pilates is what you put into it. If you’re really conscious and making an effort to make every movement count, you’ll most likely feel something the following day. It also has to do with your athleticism. If you’ve been sedentary, you’re probably going to feel it more than someone who’s very active. It’s all relative.

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