What is Pilates?
Pilates is a philosophy of movement designed to lengthen, strengthen and balance the body. Based on a thorough understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the human body, the Pilates instructor uses this knowledge to create a comprehensive exercise programme for each client with the aim of restoring balance to the whole body and improving functional movement patterns. It is this holistic approach that sets the Pilates Method apart from many other forms of exercise.
Pilates has proven itself invaluable not only as a fitness endeavour itself, but also as an important addition to professional sports training and physical rehabilitation of all kinds. By evenly training all muscle groups you avoid muscle imbalances and joint strains that can lead to injury. Pilates is recommended by osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists and general practitioners as one of the safest forms of exercises for people facing the challenges of chronic pain, fibromyalgia, limited range of motion, arthritis, osteoporosis, scoliosis, pre and post natal women as well as for many more conditions.
There are two ways to exercise in Pilates:
Mat exercises which require only a floor mat and small apparatus. These exercises are designed so that your body uses its own weight as resistance. The other method uses a variety of spring resistance equipment which supports, encourages and challenges the use of the body’s own resistance, allowing a dynamic and adaptable range of exercises suitable for all levels of ability.
The Benefits of Pilates
- Restores postural alignment
- Creates a stronger more flexible body
- Aids rehabilitation after surgery or injury
- Increases joint mobility
- Relieves back and joint pain
- Reduces stress and relieves tension
- Improves circulation
- Heightens neuromuscular coordination
- Supports your body through pregnancy
- Compliments your sports
- Is fun and challenging to do!
History of Pilates
Pilates takes its name from its innovator, Joseph H Pilates. Born in Dusseldorf in 1880, Pilates was a sickly child who had to contend with asthma, rheumatic fever and rickets. In an attempt to restore and maintain his health, a young Joseph Pilates studied eastern disciplines such as martial arts, yoga, tai chi and Zen meditation; also western disciplines such as boxing, body building and other recreational sports. Joseph Pilates believed that our physical and mental health is intertwined. He designed his exercise program around principles that support this philosophy, including concentration, centring, precision, control, breathing and flowing movements.
Joseph moved to England in 1912, aged 32, where he worked as a professional boxer and taught self defence at Scotland Yard. He even worked as a strong man circus performer. At the outbreak of the First World War Joseph was interned as a German. During this enforced spare time he encouraged other internees to stay active. This is where Pilates started to develop a new approach to exercise, which would later develop into what we now call Pilates. Later in the war he worked as an orderly in a hospital. Recognising the value of a healthy body for a healthy mind, and vice versa, he set about attaching springs to the patients’ hospital beds to provide resistance and support for their ailing limbs. Pilates had found a way to make exercise accessible for everyone; even those who were bedridden for months. This first piece of exercise equipment was later to be named the Trapeze Table, shortly followed by the Reformer which was designed like a sliding bed.
After the 1st World War Joseph returned to Germany where he worked with pioneers of movement such as Rudolph Laban. Eventually word spread of the physical results Pilates could achieve and he was ordered to train the new German Army. A pacifist, he set sail to New York where he met his wife Clara who was a nurse. On arrival they set up the first Pilates Body Conditioning Studio, which housed Reformers, Trapeze table/Cadillac and small equipment; although modified the design is of which is still used today.
Joseph Pilates’ exercise system, originally named Contrology, was invaluable to the dancers, circus performers and gymnasts of the day as a form of body conditioning and injury prevention. Many say he was the unsung hero of the dance world as he saved numerous careers. As word spread of the results which regular Pilates could achieve, many celebrities and actors flocked to his studio to stay trim and youthful for the cameras and Hollywood. Pilates always believed he was 50 years ahead of his time.
After Joseph’s death in 1967, at the age of 87, his work was carried on by a few trusted protégés. Whilst still firmly advocating Joseph Pilates main principles, the Pilates method has gradually evolved incorporating modern knowledge about the body and the more recent discoveries in exercise science and spinal rehabilitation.
Pilates was first introduced to the UK by Alan Herdman in 1970.