What is Pilates all about?

Joseph Pilates

German-born fitness innovator Joseph H. Pilates (1881-1967) developed the Pilates exercise system in the 1920s. His interest in physical fitness stemmed from a determination to strengthen his own body and improve his health after a sickly childhood. With a background in yoga, Zen meditation, martial arts and other ancient fitness techniques plus success as a gymnast and boxer, Joseph Pilates devised a unique sequence of movements that worked the mind and muscles in harmony.

He fine-tuned his wellness regimen while interned in the Isle of Man during the First World War, credited with helping him and his fellow internees resist an influenza epidemic. Working as an orderly at an infirmary, he engineered a way to rig springs on hospital beds to offer resistance exercises to bedridden patients, and thus the seed for Pilates equipment was planted.

After the war, Joseph Pilates moved to New York and with his wife, Clara Pilates, opened up a studio near the New York City Ballet in 1926. It wasn’t long before he drew a following with dancers who took to Pilates for its ability to create long, lean muscles and a strong, streamlined physique. Dance legends Martha Graham and George Balanchine were among his clientele.

In 1945, Joseph Pilates published Return to Life Through Contrology, which described his philosophical approach to exercise.  Soon, some of his students began opening studios of their own – some making subtle adaptations to the method – and word of Pilates slowly spread.

Pilates didn’t really hit the big time, however, until the 1990s. The mind-body fitness movement took off as baby boomers started seeking gentler paths to health and wellness. Ancient techniques such as yoga and tai chi, which he studied, enjoyed a resurgence of popularity and Pilates followed suit.

No longer that enigmatic workout on strange contraptions, Pilates’ reputation broke free from elitist studios and started popping up at neighbourhood gyms. Hollywood celebrities and top athletes started singing its praise and the press picked up the story.

Choosing a Teacher!

Mo Sherring of the Isle of Man Pilates Studio, believes one of the most important aspects of Pilates, and indeed any exercise, is to choose your teacher wisely. You should ask where and with whom did they train, how long have they been teaching, what other experience they have connected with human/animal movement, and whether they have experience and extensive knowledge of Anatomy, Physiology and Kinesiology (the study of the body in motion).

Knowing how the body works so that the exercises are applied correctly and safely. The instructor should have a deep understanding of the exercises and how to apply them to your body and know when you are ready to move on to the next level. 

“The instructor should be able to demonstrate physically what is being explained to you and make it physically and verbally clear otherwise you will not be able to connect your mind to your muscles.”

An instructor should be able to tell you if you have:

  • Muscle imbalance
  • Incorrect Posture
  • Correct or incorrect movement patterns
  • Proper alignment

They should be able to identify your weakness and strengths, what your method of learning is – visual,auditory or imagery – and care about you, your goals and results.

Mo adds: “This information enables you to apply what you are learning to your everyday life. You need to know what is going on in the mind and body – which will only come with honest feed back. If movements do not feel good or anything causes pain you must tell the instructor. There needs to be a trusting relationship with your instructor.

“Since it has become so popular Pilates is moving too far away from its roots – there are many inexperienced poorly trained instructors without any depth of knowledge of it higher principles or aims. The positive effects of Pilates, is, in its principals not only the exercise and equipment.”

“Pilates is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit.”

How Pilates Helps

Pilates can help you ‘increase movement’

Pilates is an efficient mind, body and spirit exercise designed to lengthen and strengthen the body. It emphasises core stability, correct breathing, balance and alignment.

The aim of Pilates is to develop the body uniformly and re-educate the body to work in a sympathetic way with the anatomy of an individual.

“The ideal to strive for is the enjoyment of physical wellbeing, mental calm and spiritual peace”  Joseph Pilates

Under the correct supervision Pilates can be tailored for all age groups and levels of fitness – it is specifically helpful to improve:

  • Posture
  • Breathing
  • Pelvic Floor

Pilates improves balance, posture, stability, flexibility and mobility. It also improves mind body awareness, breathing and reduces stress and fatigue. Pilates can also relieve pain, stiffness and tension and can boost your immune system.

    Pilates can help you ‘increase sports performance’

      Pilates exercise has been proven effective to enhance sports performance for many different sports.

        Benefits of Pilates include:

        • muscle balance
        • core strengthening and stability
        • improved focus and concentration
        • injury prevention
        • reduced stress
        • relief from back pain

          Pilates can aid in restoring muscle imbalances created by one-sided sports such as golf and tennis and can be utilised to build strength, power, endurance and precision for most if not all sport

            Whether your sport is football, tennis, or golf, all athletes need Power, Flexibility, Balance, Stamina, Concentration and Precision.

              Joseph Pilates called his method “Contrology.” That is, “it’s the mind that controls the muscles.” Pilates is known for its amazing abdominal, or, as Joseph called it, “Powerhouse,” strengthening abilities – now referred to a Core Stability. Without strong abdominal’s, there can be no power, stability, speed or optimal use of arms or legs. Pilates also works on developing body awareness so that the athlete consistently maintains ideal postural alignment. Standing in correct alignment is challenging, but maintaining proper alignment while moving in different planes is even more difficult. Pilates works to balance the body and develop muscular symmetry.

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