Features / Japan / Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni / News Stories

Yoga, pilates strengthen, rehabilitate

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan  — The demands of the working world can cause a lot of stress on the mind and body.

For service members and civilians alike, it is important to find a way to relieve stress and physically strengthen the body to continue to take on tasks from day to day.

The IronWorks Gym offers two effective ways to clear the mind, strengthen the core and relax the body, which include daily pilates and yoga classes in the aerobics room.

Joseph Pilates, born in Germany, originally developed pilates using eastern philosophies, yoga and various athletic techniques to rehabilitate injured Veterans during the First World War.

“Joseph Pilates was a sickly child who doctors had to create exercises for so that he could get out of bed,” said Leah Novak, pilates instructor at IronWorks Gym. “As he grew up, he wanted to achieve great physical fitness. His idea was that if you work your mind to learn how to control your body you will build strength and fitness.”

Joseph Pilates’s idea worked and today, his exercises are practiced internationally.

“Pilates is great,” said Novak. “It strengthens and tones the body without creating too bulky of a muscle which can become prone to injury. It helps you center and coordinate your movement with the abdominal control that is required.”

As a lengthening exercise, pilates allows the enhancement of balance and strength.

“Pilates is an idea that all movement begins from the center of the body,” said Novak. “It works from your core which includes the abdominals, lower back, glutes and thighs.”

When practicing pilates, it is important to remember to concentrate on breathing, physical alignment, and precision to control movements of the body.

“Not only does breathing oxygenate the body so that your muscles work efficiently, it also helps to release the toxins in your body that build up from going about your busy schedule,” said Novak. “If you forget to breath, it is very difficult to do some of the exercises.”

Even though pilates can be a tough exercise to master, beginners do not need to be intimidated to participate in classes.

Pilates instructors are more than willing to modify exercises to suit the needs of service members and civilians of all fitness levels.

“For beginners, it might feel difficult to concentrate on the breathing at first,” said Novak. “I also recommend beginners talk to the instructor about any injuries or medical issues they may have.”

For injured service members and civilians, rehabilitation may require patience.

“It is recommended to go very slowly when rehabilitating the body, but it does help strengthen those areas and support the area of the body that might be injured,” said Novak.

Even though pilates is based off of yoga movements, service members and civilians may find similarities as well as differences between the two exercises.

Pilates focuses more on strengthening the core and toning the body whereas yoga concentrates more on flexibility and reaching toward the outer limits of the body’s range of motion.

“I think the biggest difference is the breathing techniques,” said Novak. “I thoroughly recommend people to try both.”

Prakai Parsons, a yoga instructor at IronWorks Gym, applies different types of yoga practices to her routine such as Ashtanga, Hatha and Power Yoga.

Ashtanga yoga is beneficial to the strengthening of posture and the range of motion in the body during movements between postures.

Hatha yoga is a type of exercise that includes meditation and may be practiced by holding sitting, kneeling or standing poses.

Power yoga may also be practiced by participants of a more advanced physical level and requires much concentration, balance and strength.

“In yoga, positions require you to hold your body, lengthen your spine, lift your knees, roll your shoulders back, keep your chest up, chin up, and focus on your breathing,” said Parsons. “It is different from pilates in this way.”

Parsons has also found yoga to be beneficial to the rehabilitation of injuries and aches.

After being involved in a motorcycle accident, Parsons suffered severe injuries and found yoga beneficial to her rehabilitation.

Beginners interested in taking yoga classes are recommended to go slow as their bodies adapt to the exercise, and they should not push themselves too hard because it is easy to do the wrong thing and hurt the body, said Parsons.

“Yoga is for you,” said Parsons. “Not your competition.”

For more information about pilates, yoga or any other Semper Fit classes, call the IronWorks Gym at 253-5051.

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