What is pilates?
The Pilates Method of body conditioning was developed by German Joseph Pilates more than 70 years
ago. For many years, Pilates training remained a well-kept secret in the world of dance and the performing arts. In recent
years the growing interest in "mind/body" exercise has brought Pilates concepts to the forefront of fitness training.
This wave of interest has seen stars such as Madonna, Sharon Stone and Jodie Foster using The Method
and enjoying the benefits of Pilates training techniques.
The Pilates Method comprises more than 500 exercises, performed as a mat-based workout or using special
resistance equipment developed by Joseph Pilates and emphasizing spring resistance.
central concept of Pilates training is strengthening the so-called "Powerhouse" or core of the body - the deep abdominal muscles,
buttock muscles and the muscles around the spine. A training program based on Pilates will stabilize the pelvis and shoulder
girdle, stretching and strengthening the entire body with movement initiating from "the center".
Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born near Düsseldorf, Germany in 1880. As a child, he suffered from a number of physical ailments including Rickets,
Asthma and Rheumatic Fever.
Pilates, determined to overcome these health issues, began a lifetime dedication to physical fitness
beginning with gymnastics, body building, and skiing. He also studied eastern methods of training
such as Yoga and Zen meditation. By the time he was a teenager, he was in good enough physical condition to pose for anatomical
charts - quite a transformation!
Pilates left his native Germany for England in 1912, where he earned a living in various ways - as a professional
boxer, circus performer, even teaching self-defence to members of the police force at Scotland Yard. He continued to develop
his system of exercise whilst interned during World War 1. The origins of the modern day "Reformer", with its spring resistance
and sliding carriage, are to be found in equipment that Joseph Pilates developed during this period to enable bed-ridden patients
to continue to exercise and develop strength and flexibility, working with springs taken from their beds.
Pilates opened his first dedicated 'Pilates' studio in New York during the 1920's. From the beginning, his greatest fans were drawn from the world of the performing arts.
Leading lights of the dance world such as Martha Graham, George Balanchine and Hanya Holm used The Method to improve performance
and prevent injury.
Pilates continued to teach and develop equipment and exercises with his beloved wife Clara until
his death in 1967. He was fond of speculating that he was 50 years before the times in his theories and ideas. Given the universal
popularity of Pilates training across the world at the start of the new millennium, he seems to have been right!
What is so special about pilates?
This question is best answered by one of Joseph Pilates favorite quotes from Schiller - "It is the mind itself
which builds the body". Pilates formulated 6 basic principles for his exercise technique:
1. Breathing The pattern of breathing is
connected with the pattern of movement. It ensures a free flow of cleansing oxygen throughout the body, improves circulation
and helps to avoid unnecessary tension in the muscles.
Precision The Method emphasizes quality of movement over quantity.
3. Centering Centering refers to
the practice of initiating and controlling movement from the center or "Powerhouse" - abs, buttocks and back muscles. This
concept lies at the heart of Pilates work.
4. Flowing Movement In combination with deep and relaxed breathing, the flowing movements in Pilates
reduce stress on the body and the risk of injury.
5. Control Control is vital! Momentum has no place in this method of training.
6. Concentration In Pilates, the mind and
the body work as a team. Every exercise requires your full attention. Observe your body as it works, think about each stage
methods of training and developing the body tend to produce short, bulky muscles - precisely the type of musculature most
prone to injury. Pilates elongates the spine, increasing the elasticity of muscles and the flexibility of joints. This balance
between strength and flexibility drastically reduces the potential for injury.
Pilates emphasizes flowing movements requiring the use of multiple muscle
groups simultaneously. Controlled breathing and concentration are essential, making Pilates truly a workout for the body and
the mind. It avoids the tendency of many exercise forms to emphasize the muscles which are stronger and to neglect those which
are already weaker. In this way Pilates can help your body to regain efficient patterns of motion - a great benefit to those
recovering from injury, professional athletes and performers, or anyone seeking good posture and optimal health.