Re: Aikido & Pilates
My quick $0.02. I've done a lot of yoga in my day, some very hard and some very soft, all meant to help iron out the structural issues I've developed through aikido and being very tall (mostly back and knee problems). I recently started bikram (aka hot) yoga. I'm as weary as the next person about the advice of zealots (meaning take this with a grain of salt because I'm pretty buzzed about my new practice) but it really is a spectacular system. The hot room used to seem like cheating to me, but now I view it as a safety net. It's much harder to hurt yourself when you're that warm. The series of postures is not particularly difficult so you're less likely to over strain and it strengthens and stretches and aligns just about every muscle I know about. My knee problems have all but vanished and my back is more flexible than it has been in years. About once a week is all it takes for me, especially because I'm training aikido.
Hope that helps.
ps -- re the earlier parts of the thread about the lengthen of muscles. Muscles can absolutely be lengthened and there is scientific literature to back this up. My sister lost much of her leg in a moped accident and they put her in a halo (an external thing screwed into the bone at various places like orthodontists braces for the leg). The halo is usually used to stabilize and lengthen bone while it heals, but it also has the effect of lengthening muscles which is why they used it in her case (many of her muscles were severed and not long enough to reach where they should). After they took the halo off, her muscles had lengthened and they were able to reattach them (there's all kinds of other stuff wrong in there, but each step forward is a good one). So if muscles can be lengthened by an external brace, why not by internal stretching...?