Joseph Pilates fused aspects of Eastern and Western exercise philosophies. The balancing of these worlds attracts so many people to his method and makes a perfect antidote to the stresses of modern living. From the East, Pilates borrowed the principles of mind/body connection, contemplation and the importance of breath. From the West, he borrowed an emphasis on muscle tone and strength, precision and intensity of movement. His method utilizes the body as a whole to develop core strength and improve posture and balance. Adding the ball to a Pilates program continues to emphasize these same principles and deepens the Pilates experience.

Core Strength

Many traditional exercise programs do not work the body’s core - the deep abdominal and spinal muscles, shoulder blade stabilizers and pelvic floor. The core muscles stabilize the rest of the body. Think of your core as a strong column that supports you. Having a solid core creates a sound foundation for all activities and sports and is especially important when you add a heavy load such as weights to a workout.

The stability helps you concentrate on your core. The ball is an unstable base of support, so balancing on it recruits the core muscles automatically. For example, you recruit more muscles and stabilizers when doing a free-weight, upper body workout balancing on a ball as opposed to doing the same workout on a bench. While one muscle group is moving, other muscle groups stabilize and maintain balance. Considering that most of our muscles work as stabilizers throughout the day, this kind of training is especially beneficial.

Balance and Posture

The stability ball also improves balance, which goes hand in hand with correct postural alignment. In order to exercise on the ball, you must learn to use internal feedback and develop self-reliance. You force your brain to communicate with your body more effectively so that your response time is quicker. Your body automatically calls on your righting and equilibrium responses and coordinates the effort of your postural muscles. You unconsciously find a way to balance on the ball with the smallest possible amount of muscle use, which reinforces positive movement patterns.

Balance is a key ingredient for an athlete to improve performance. For example, a hockey player uses core balance to make it difficult for an opponent to knock him or her down. With improved balance and core strength, an athlete becomes a much harder opponent to move.

The ball is unpredictable, playful and fun. It encourages you to dig deeply within yourself and helps you avoid injury by increasing your response time. And although it helps you improve balance and posture, it also teaches you to fall gracefully and without fear.