The focus on mobility, flexibility and strength through a full range of motion helps restore the injured tissues to a healthy state before sport-specific training begins. In rehab, Pilates can be used at all stages, from the most acute phase to advanced functional re-education. Pilates is particularly effective in injury rehabilitation settings. According to Matt Nichol, head strength and conditioning coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club, Pilates teaches athletes to be mindful in their movements, and integrate their pelvis, trunk and shoulder girdle within a safe, challenging and progressive system. “Pilates can be a very effective supplement to an injury rehabilitation program, as it provides athletes with a challenging workout without impact or excessive weight bearing,” says Nichol. Traditional athletic training helps to develop the muscles required in a specific-sport movement pattern, but may not address the stabilizing muscles around the joints or the torso. Often, one muscle is identified and exercises are designed to isolate that muscle, usually in a single plane of motion. However, Pilates exercisescan be more complex than traditional moves, and will, therefore, recruit a larger number of muscle groups and strengthen the supporting musculature from many angles and in different ranges of motion.
BREAST CANCER REHAB
Although medical research specific to Pilates for breast cancer is nonexistent to date, there is a growing body of research that suggests that exercise in general can reduce the risk for recurrence, as well as enhance functionality and quality of life. “Given that the essential aims of Pilates are to build a strong core, facilitate effortless movement and re-pattern musculature, it seems a natural choice for those recovering from breast cancer and its side-effects,” says STOTT PILATES Master Instructor Trainer P.J. O’Clair. “Pilates is a gentle, restorative exercise regimen perfectly suited for those as they recover from breast cancer and work to rebuild their bodies. In addition to the restorative qualities gained from a Pilates program, the re-education of one’s mind and body are extremely beneficial and necessary features.” During cancer rehabilitation, the concepts of breathing, pelvic and lumbar spine alignment, rib cage placement, shoulder mobility and stability, and head and neck alignment can be applied to any Pilates movement. Bringing awareness to posture can be the first step in improving daily activities. Putting the body in a position where it moves and reacts more efficiently can take away unwanted stress and strain. Developing proper movement patterns will also allow the body to heal in a way that reduces the likelihood of compensatory injuries.
PILATES FOR LIFE
In any form and at any level, Pilates can be a starting point, an ending point or a maintenance tool for almost anyone, including rehab clients and athletes. Virtually anyone can realize improvements to an array of movement dysfunction, including neurological disorders, cardiopulmonary restrictions, orthopedic complaints and a host of other physiological conditions. Now, more than ever, Pilates is a method that encompasses all individuals, no matter what their specific needs.
MOIRA MERRITHEW is a master instructor trainer and executive director of education for STOTT PILATES. Together with STOTT PILATES President and CEO Lindsay G. Merrithew and a team of physical therapists, sports medicine and fitness professionals, she spent two decades refining the company’s method of exercise and to form the basis for its training and certification programs.