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April 2017
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Following the popularity of Pilates, a new discipline is catching on in gyms, which is the result of the teachings of Joseph Pilates and new well-being trends: Aqua Pilates, for which the classic Pilates positions have been studied and adapted to be performed in water.

Before looking at this discipline in more detail, we need to look at the techniques and basic principles of Pilates. This sport, which was invented around 1920 by Joseph Pilates, whom it takes its name from, is a form of exercise made up of movements and natural positions (apart from the variants of Pilates, all exercises are carried out using the natural body weight) combined with deep psychophysical concentration. This is why Aqua Pilates can be counted as a holistic discipline, that is, an activity that trains both the mind and body, and this combination is not a coincidence; it is fundamental for carrying out the activity. Keeping the mind, spirit, body and emotions in harmony improves your quality of life and your health.

The key principles of Pilates are:

  • Breathing: breathing, whilst doing physical activity, is fundamental to oxygenate muscles and provide them with nutritional substances. You must reach the necessary level of concentration in Pilates to be able to carry out the movements. We normally breathe involuntarily however Pilates requires deeper breathing, therefore the main respiratory muscles are activated (the diaphragm, the inhalation muscle, and the abdominals, the exhalation muscles).
  • Core control and axial lengthening: all Pilates exercises start from the power house, that is, the group of muscles made up of the abdominals, glutei and lumbar muscles. Deep contractions of these muscles lead on to the spine elongating. The vertebrae separate by a few millimetres and this creates an unmistakeable feeling of well-being.
  • Workout of the shoulder girdle: the spine works together with the arms in all directions.
  • Mobilisation of the spine: the spine must be both elongated and mobilised on all levels and you must learn to move it by extending and flexing, but always in a controlled and concentrated way, trying to activate one vertebrae at a time.
  • Concentration and precision: there are no careless or imprecise movements in Pilates; everything is done with maximum concentration. It is the quality that counts not the quantity - it is best to repeat an exercise one less time than do it incorrectly an extra time.
  • Fluidity: all movements must be fluid and harmonious; what you are doing must not only be effective but nice to watch too. Working out in a fluid and controlled way greatly lowers the risk of injuring the musculoskeletal system.

After learning the correct breathing technique, you can start practising both elongation and static Pilates positions.

Pilates is a natural activity but it can also be supported by the use of small pieces of equipment, such as elastic bands, exercise rings, balls, rollers and water noodles.

-rings- -balls- -water noodles- -elastic bands-

Another important component of Aqua Pilates is the water, or better still, doing physical activity in water.

Humans are made of water; at least 70% of the body is made up of this fundamental fluid. We need water to survive and it is also very useful for many sports. One of the main advantages that water offers is the partial absence of gravity and this is why:

  • it is suitable for people who have bone and joint problems, such as elderly and obese people and people affected by injuries. Movements in water put less pressure on the joints compared to when they are performed on the ground;
  • as well as being functional, water has numerous benefits on a psychological level. Let us think about overweight people, for example, who often avoid doing sports because they are ashamed to show their bodies off in public. This problem is overcome in water because it protects and hides movements, letting everyone express themselves freely and in harmony with their own body;
  • it greatly stimulates microcirculation of the skin, which can be seen in the lower limbs and on a psychophysical level;
  • it relieves the spine and produces general psychophysical well-being;
  • it has a higher resistance to movement than air. In fact, the density of water plays two roles: on the one hand it helps to maintain the Pilates positions, especially the more difficult ones, but on the other hand it is harder to get into these positions. In other words, it is harder to get into positions but it is easier to stay in them.

Combining the advantages of Pilates with water sport activities gives us Aqua Pilates.

Movements are carried out in water, which should come up to the waist, just under the chest or the participants can be fully immerged up to the head depending on the type of exercise. For the first lessons, you can start doing a series of general warm-up exercises to master the new techniques and environment, that is, water and not the ground. The temperature of the swimming pool should be between 22-24°C. Pilates is an activity that requires time, patience, acquisition of motor gestures, control of the body and breathing and concentration, which can only be reached after a few training sessions. You cannot become good at Pilates after just one month, which is why it is recommended that those who decide to start Aqua Pilates have some classic Pilates experience beforehand. If you do not have this experience, it is a good idea to do 3 or 4 Pilates classes before jumping in the pool to do Aqua Pilates. For pregnant women, both those who have already done Pilates and those who are starting from scratch, Aqua Pilates is an activity that can provide numerous benefits, and the water means that each woman can decide the intensity of the workout. Some Pilates positions are not recommended for pregnant women after the first few months, but Aqua Pilates can be done up until the last few weeks of pregnancy and be taken up again quite soon after giving birth.
Given that this activity is carried out in water, once you have learnt the basic positions, you can do them whenever you are in a pool or the sea so you do not miss out on training and stay fit even when you are on holiday.

Aqua Pilates is a new activity and therefore it is subject to constant changes and updates. The exercises used in a class are classic Pilates exercises with some variations, exceptions and adaptations due to the different environment. Certain exercises carried out on when lying face down or face up can be carried out, whilst others cannot, and some may be performed when standing still whilst others may require the help of a water noodle and the ropes separating the lanes to place the feet on.
Movements performed when floating face up, such as circles, hamstring arches, cycling and criss-cross, can be carried out whilst holding on to the side of the pool and placing a water noodle under the back, either horizontally or vertically along the spine. Other exercises, such as the hundred, can be performed with bent knees, resting the calves on the side of the pool, whereas sitting exercises, like the mermaid, can be done standing up in chest-deep water whilst holding a ring between the thighs. Numerous other exercises can be performed when in this position (for example, the standing balance) and others with a ring between the arms or both the legs and arms.
If the pool has steps, you could hold on to them and do some face-down exercises such as leg-pulls down, leg-pulls up and side kicks. Exercises like this can also be performed with the help of a water noodle between the hands and with the feet on the ropes. Another good piece of equipment is an elastic exercise band which can work the arms and legs.


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