Pilates: what’s it all about?

Pilates is all about the core. Even so, Pilates exercises also strengthen the rest of the body, bringing it into harmony with the mind. Our exercises for beginners will help you get started. You’ll also find out more about how Pilates differs from yoga.

16.10.2020 Lara Brunner 4 minutes

What is Pilates?

German-born Joseph Hubertus Pilates developed this form of exercise at the start of the 20th century, with the aim of harmonising and training the body and mind. Pilates exercises are done on the floor and using equipment, and include stretching, strength exercises and conscious breathing. The focus in Pilates is on the core – the back, stomach and pelvic floor muscles. 

What does Pilates do?

Pilates exercises strengthen, stabilise and mobilise the entire body. These controlled movements train the deep muscles that remain inactive during many other types of sport and exercise, while activating the centre of the body and the pelvic floor. Pilates also improves posture and helps you feel more balanced.

The 6 principles of Pilates

  1. Centering: pay attention to your core
  2. Breath: ensure breaths and movements are in harmony with each other
  3. Control: deliberately control every movement
  4. Concentration: focus on the muscles being worked
  5. Precision: quality over quantity
  6. Flow: the sequence of exercises flows harmoniously

Powerhouse: pay attention to your core

You often hear the word “powerhouse” in Pilates, a term that was used by Joseph H. Pilates to describe the core. This includes the abdominal muscles, the muscles of the spine and the pelvic floor. Although the deep muscles in this region of the body are often weak, they strongly influence posture and should therefore be strengthened. You can activate your “powerhouse” by breathing out and pulling your belly button towards your spine.

Neutral pelvis: the natural position

Bringing your pelvis into its natural position takes pressure off the spine, and is part of many Pilates exercises. To do this, stand with your back straight and your legs bent a little, then push your pelvis forwards slightly.

The differences between Pilates and yoga

Pilates and yoga have a lot in common. Both increase physical and mental vitality while alleviating back problems and improving posture and body awareness. The major difference between Pilates and yoga is breathing technique. In Pilates, you breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. In yoga, however, you only breathe through the nose. Breathing also plays a more significant role in yoga exercises; each pose is held for several breaths and performed one after the other, following the flow of breath. Pilates exercises, on the other hand, follow repetitions or counts.

Yoga: what you need to know

Yogalates: the best of both worlds

Yogalates is a blend of yoga and Pilates. It combines stretching and meditation exercises from yoga with strengthening and toning exercises from Pilates.

Strength exercises in the Helsana Coach app

The Helsana Coach app will help you achieve your personal health goals. In the app, you can find plenty of exercises to help strengthen the centre of your body.

Pilates exercises for beginners

Start off with a simple breathing exercise. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and a slight bend in your knees. Place your hands on the lower part of your ribcage, one hand on each side, with your elbows pointing outwards. Take a slow, deep breath in, then emphasise your breath as you exhale. Repeat this exercise ten times.

Lie down on your back. Pull your knees in towards your chest and extend your arms, keeping them close to your body. Press your palms into the floor. Now raise your head and shoulders until your arms are hovering just above the floor. Extend your lower legs so that your toes are pointing towards the ceiling. Now move your arms up and down five times on an inhale and five times on an exhale. Repeat ten rounds of this sequence.

Sit up straight with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Hold on to the back of your thighs, keeping your elbows wide apart. Now tense your glutes and tilt your pelvis so that your lower back is resting on the floor. Lower your chin and fix your gaze on your belly button. Press your lower spine firmly into the floor and hold this position for three breaths, before returning to the starting position. Repeat this exercise three times.

Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Breathe in, gently pull your left knee towards your chest and extend your right leg out straight. Raise your head and shoulders slightly off the floor. Then change legs when you exhale; extend your left leg out straight and pull your right knee towards your chest, before returning to the starting position. Repeat this exercise eight times.

Note: pay attention to your posture while doing this exercise. Do not tilt your shoulder or hip to the side. The knee you’re holding on to should be in line with your hip and foot.

Assume the push-up position. Activate your “powerhouse” (see section “Powerhouse: focus on your core”) and firmly press your legs together. Breathe in and raise one leg up with your toes pointed (make sure you don’t shift your weight onto one side). Exhale and rock the heel of the foot that’s on the floor back and forth twice, before returning to the starting position and repeating the sequence on the other side. Repeat this exercise three times.

Our services for a balanced life

We are committed to contributing to your health. The SANA and COMPLETA supplementary insurance policies cover 75% of the costs of recognised Pilates courses, up to a maximum of CHF 200 per calendar year.


Your supplement: Outpatient benefits and alternative treatments are covered.


All the benefits of TOP and SANA – in some cases with higher reimbursements.

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