What is pilates and what can it do for me?

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What is Pilates?
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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.

The 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?Traditional 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.