Alia to Katrina: Pilates is Bollywood's favourite fitness routine

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Alia to Katrina: Pilates is Bollywood's favourite fitness routine

Bollywood stars love it but the exercise system has far more benefits than just getting you fit and looking beautiful, say experts.

Once called Body Contrology, Pilates is a system developed in early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. Pilates was a sickly child who couldn't move but he observed how people weren't moving as much as they had been and he wanted to create a system accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical ability, medical issues, age, gender, etc.

Today, Pilates is a favourite routine with fitness enthusiasts and stars across the world. Our very own Bollywood is full of Pilates lovers.

"Deepika [Padukone] just a few days ago asked me to find her an instructor in New York. She worked out at 5am before her shoot. Alia Bhatt, when she travels, takes a trainer with her," Yasmin Karachiwala, the Pilates trainer of the stars told Mail Today last week at the opening of her studio in the city.

"Alia has a travel reformer [a carriage on which the exercise is done] and she'll ask me to send her a workout because she has only an hour at home. Vesna Jacob, who started teaching Pilates in Delhi 15 years ago, agrees Bollywood stars provide great promotion to the exercise system.

"People come to me all the time to instruct them for aesthetic value. But Pilates has several benefits," said the former national basketball champion from Bosnia. After a serious injury, she had no choice but to give up sports. But it couldn't stop her from learning disciplines until she encountered Pilates, which she said proved to be an "eye opener".

Today she practises holistic Pilates, is a trained physiotherapist, healer and clinical hypnotherapist.

"People come to me as a last resort or when they have a serious issue. When I teach I truly go to the body, mind and soul. I've worked with people suffering from post traumatic stress, spinal fracture, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia... And after Pilates they have returned to normal routines."

But given today's lifestyle, the pollution, stressful jobs and the long commutes in this city, is it actually possible to use Pilates as a tool for healthier living?

"The lifestyle of last 20-30 years has created neck, back, shoulder and knee issues, not just due to a lack of movement but due to pollution, especially in India. Plus inadequate infrastructure and the climate become a problem for even people who want to do something," said Jacob.

"Pilates delivers on all this because it can be done easily, with minimum equipment, indoors or outdoors, where you are comfortable."

While classically Pilates is done in the lying position, Jacob's holistic Pilates can be done in the vertical space too. "So it can be done even as part of your office routine and will help you with your posture, your alignment, alleviate aches and pains. In case you are a healthy individual it'll help shape up the body."

Karachiwala feels because of the pollution walking outdoors is almost impossible in Delhi.

"Pilates will make you feel great because like yoga we too focus on breath but with movement and on machines that give you resistance. So when you breathe through the movement of Pilates, your body gets energised in a different way and you feel like you've woken up from a deep slumber. Pilates' focus is to fatigue, but in a 'nourishing' way. When Katrina [Kaif] started Pilates she thought it was one of those exercises where you didn't work out and could relax. But as she did it and started understanding it, she felt how it nourished her body in such a better way than gym workouts do."

Jacob says she's seen people who do high intensity programmes such as crossfit and zumba including Pilates in their routines on recovery days when the body balance needs to be restored.

"I believe everybody should have a foundation in Pilates because it teaches you internal awareness, control and calmness, and how to get the maximum out of yourself."