“In 10 sessions, you feel better, 20 sessions you look better, 30 sessions you have a completely new body.” – Joseph Pilates
Is Pilates as effective as German physical trainer Joseph Pilates touted it to be? The workout that he invented in the 1920s has been the first choice of celebrities to get a toned body for years. Credit Hollywood stars Oprah Winfrey, Madonna and Uma Thurman, who set the trend in the ‘90s, that eventually rocketed among Indian celebs as well. So much so, that they are now obsessed with it, and ‘reformer pilates’ is the fitness rage of the moment.
We got celebrity fitness trainer Namrata Purohit to tell us all about Pilates, how it works, its benefits and what makes so many celebs swear by this form of exercise.
Pilates is magical, holistic and extremely beneficial
When Purohit was injured during a fall and underwent knee surgery, doctors told her that she would never be able to play squash or dance. That’s when she discovered Pilates. She recounts, “I started Pilates almost 12 years ago, and it has been a huge journey. More than the body, I would say for my mind. It has made me extremely comfortable in my skin, made me accept who I am and made my body the best version of itself.”
Purohit was striving to heal physically and emotionally. She dedicated a year to all forms of exercise but still couldn’t be free of pain. “My father was hosting a Pilates course in Mumbai and just four days into the course, for the first time in the entire year, I was pain-free. That’s when I knew this form of exercise is magical,” shares Purohit. “Pilates just made sure that I can do everything. I can do more now than I could ever do before,” she adds.
Stressing how Pilates focuses on every muscle of the body, and your core, she explains, “Pilates works muscles that you cannot work in the gym because it works deeper and not only on the superficial muscles of the body. From strength to flexibility, to endurance and balance, stability and concentration, it works on every aspect of the body.” The exercise led to her full mind and body recovery and encouraged her to become a Pilates instructor and own a studio herself.
Pilates is for all; age no bar
Pilates can have different meanings and purposes for different people. So how does one know that they need to choose this particular form of workout? Purohit elaborates, “Pilates is an incredible exercise that can be done by anybody and everybody. It’s something that everyone should do, because not only does it help you if you have injuries, but also helps to prevent injuries. It is easy on the joints which makes it suitable for any age. Someone at eight, 18 or 80 years of age can do Pilates because it’s extremely customised. So depending on your needs, your goal, your lifestyle and your time frame, it can be customised for you. Also, you cannot get injured doing Pilates. If you get injured, you have done it extremely wrong.”
Bollywood divas and their love for pilates
From Kareena Kapoor Khan to Kangana Ranaut — the Pilates instructor is known for training some of the most celebrated divas of Bollywood. Among the Gen Z actors, her celebrity clientele features the likes of Janhvi Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan, who are also the most papped Bollywood celebrities outside Purohit’s studio post-workout.
Talking about why Bollywood celebs swear by Pilates, she says, “It’s not a stressful form of exercise. While you are able to get the maximum benefit from that 45-minute or one-hour workout, they are also able to release any stress or tension or tight muscles. When you have a busy life, you want to go back refreshed and not exhausted. While you feel the burn during the class, after the class you feel more relaxed.”
Taking us through their preferred workout, the celebrity fitness trainer says, “Sara enjoys working on reformers and she loves working on her back the most. Janhvi loves working her glutes. When she came to me, she had an injury. At first, she thought that she would be doing Pilates only to help her with the injury and be pain-free. When she started looking leaner and feeling stronger, she became addicted to pilates, so much so that she has a reformer at home. So on days she can’t make it to the studio, she does it at home.”
Pilates vs yoga
Pilates and yoga are often misconstrued as similar forms of exercise. However, the only thing Pilates has in common with yoga is that they are both mind and body forms of exercise — which means they require you to focus on your breathing.
Purohit explains further, “The breathing technique is different. For yoga, we tend to breathe more into the stomach area. In Pilates, we breathe more three-dimensionally, so into the rib cage area, where we try to expand the rib cage and keep our core engaged throughout. We don’t expand and contract the abdominal muscles to breathe, while we do stay relaxed during the breathing, by simply pulling off the belly button up above the pelvic area.”
Mistakes to avoid while doing Pilates
The tip is not to rush it. As it’s a mind-and-body form of exercise, it is important to remember to connect your body before you start the movement and not just do it mindlessly. “Don’t rush the process because the equipment is very different from what you have used before. Understand the equipment and use it in an intelligent and relaxed manner. Follow the basic principles of Pilates which are breathing, spinal posture, neutral positioning of the spine and core engagement,” says Purohit.
Reformer pilates is going to rule 2023
The world is currently obsessed with reformer pilates and Purohit is no different. “It’s the best form of exercise. The reformer is my favourite piece of equipment on which you can do more than 2,000 different exercises. It’s extremely versatile and can be customised for each individual’s needs,” she says. This form of exercise includes a lot of stretching that helps to tone muscles, build strength, increase flexibility, and improve joint mobility, muscle imbalance and posture.
Pilates for prepartum and postpartum
Alia Bhatt, Sonam Kapoor, Kajal Aggarwal and Kareena swear by Pilates when it comes to losing pregnancy weight. Talking about how Kareena lost 14 kilos in three months, Purohit says, “The most important thing is your kegel muscles. Pilates really work on strengthening that area which actually helps for a smoother delivery and any kind of back pain. Because your centre of gravity changes during pregnancy, your shoulders start getting tired, so it helps pre and post-natal with getting back the elasticity of the skin, tightening the muscles, and getting that awareness back in that area. Pilates helps to move in a safe manner again and get pain-free.”