what is pilates?
The Pilates method is a mind-body centring technique, designed to elongate, strengthen and restore the body to balance, using movements that involve the whole body, in order to re-educate and restore your optimum muscular and skeletal function. It is this holistic approach that sets Pilates apart from many other forms of exercise. The Pilates method can be modified to meet the needs of the individual, through a range of mat and equipment based training.
Pilates addresses underlying structural imbalances in the body, which can create on-going pain, and difficulty with movement. It can be beneficial for just about everyone, regardless of age and fitness level. Osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists and general practitioners recommend Pilates as one of the safest forms of exercise today. By concentrating on focused movement, awareness of breath control, and reducing mechanical stresses, Pilates can provide the individual with the tools to correct abnormal movement patterns, thus carry these changes into every day functional movement.
Although the method is over a century old, with it’s conception by German-born Joseph Pilates as ‘Contrology’, it is forever evolving, with new research continuing to advance his original teachings and techniques, whilst still maintaining to preserve the true philosophy of the Pilates method.
Joseph Pilates was born in Mönchengladbach, near Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1883. His father was a prize-winning gymnast, and his mother worked as a naturopath. Pilates was a frail sickly child, suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. His drive and determination to overcome these ailments led him to become a competent gymnast, diver and skier. He also studied body-building, yoga and kung fu.
In 1912 Pilates moved to England, earning a living as a professional boxer, circus performer, and self-defence instructor for Scotland Yard. However, during the First World War, he was interred by the British authorities, with other German nationals, and taught them wrestling and self-defence. He developed his technique of physical fitness further, during the latter part of the War, when he served as an orderly in a hospital on the Isle of Man, working with patients unable to walk. Joseph developed his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he himself called ‘Contrology’. He attached bed springs to the hospital beds to help support the patients’ limbs, leading to the development of his equipment known as the ‘Cadillac’. Much of his equipment, although slightly adapted, is still in use today in many Pilates Studios.
Pilates emigrated to the United States in the early 1920s, opening a ‘body-conditioning studio’ with his wife Clara in New York in 1926. The studio featured much of the apparatus designed to enhance his rehabilitation work. It soon became very popular, particularly with the dance community, as it offered a chance to improve technique or recover from injury. Word spread quickly and many celebrities of the day visited his studio. These included dance legends such as Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine and Martha Graham, as well as the actor Jose Ferrer and the author Christopher Isherwood.
In 1932 Pilates published a booklet called ‘Your Health’ and followed this with another called ‘Return to Life Through Contrology’ in 1945. Through these writings, and his devoted following of students, his method was passed on to future generations after his death in 1967. It was only after his death that contrology became known as Pilates or the Pilates Method.
the benefits of pilates
Pilates is beneficial for general fitness, specific health conditions and most of all, for your overall well-being. It corrects postural alignment, and facilitates fluidity of movement, thereby enhancing grace and coordination.
Improves your posture
Improves mobility and flexibility of the spine
Delivers muscle tone and flexibility
Promotes a more efficient and supportive core
Increases stability for the pelvis and shoulders
Fosters the health of joints through improved mobility and support from the surrounding musculature
Complements training for athletes
Facilitates injury prevention and physical rehabilitation
Builds better balance and coordination, particularly for the elderly
Offers a safe and excellent form of exercise for prenatal and postnatal women
Alleviates aches and pains
Helps maintain and can improve bone density
Develops the function and efficiency of the lungs with improvement in circulation
Offers a safe and beneficial form of exercise for a wide range of medical conditions, including Scoliosis, Osteoporosis, Arthritis, and Multiple Sclerosis
Makes you look and feel better
Relieves stress and tension, and promotes a feeling of well-being
Expands body awareness
Integrates mind, body and spirit
Improves quality of life