What is Pilates?
Developed by Joseph H. Pilates (b.1880 d.1967) Pilates is a system of exercises that engages the body and mind in thoughtful and deliberate activity in order to achieve inner strength and balance throughout.
Pilates incorporates breath and movement and the exercises follow a specific order designed to align and tone all the muscles throughout the body with particular focus on stabilizing the shoulder girdle, the pelvis and strengthening the core abdominal muscles.
Pilates works from the inside-out, developing smaller muscles as well as the larger, more obvious muscles and strengthening the deep core muscles as well as the more external muscles. In this way every muscle in the body is activated during each exercise aiming towards "uniform development" of the entire body.
Breath is an integral part of Pilates exercise. The breathing technique used in Pilates is used as a tool to help stimulate the muscles and expel toxins from the body. The breath is used in conjunction with the movement to develop a fully balanced body capable of more efficient functioning in everyday life.
Pilates carries over into every aspect of your life. Regular practice creates ease in the movement and function of your body in everything you do and increases your sense of well-being.
Who was Joseph Pilates?
Joseph H. Pilates was born near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880. He was a sick child suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Unable to be physical at a young age he studied Eastern and Western philosophies on exercise. From this he began to develop his own system of exercises which he called 'Contrology'. By the age of 14 he was posing for anatomical charts and had become a skier, diver and a gymnast.
In 1912 he went to England to become a boxer. He was interned during World War 1 and trained his fellow interns in his system of exercises. He boasted later that none of these interns succumbed to the influenza epidemic of that time. Pilates also began to build the beginnings of the equipment we know today to rehabilitate interns with wartime diseases.
After the war, Joe moved back to Germany where he trained the Hamburg City Police and when approached by the government to train the New German Army he decided to leave for America. So, in 1925 he travelled over to America on a boat where he met his wife, Clara.
Joe and Clara set up a studio in New York and Pilates became popular amongst the famous names of the dance, theatre and writing community of that time.
Pilates continued to teach his method of 'Contrology' for several years until his studio burnt down. He attempted to save his equipment from the fire and eventually died a year later, some believe from smoke inhalation, in 1967 at age 87. His wife Clara continued his work and he also passed his knowledge onto a few of his students, some of whom are still teaching today.
Joseph Pilates called his system of exercise 'Contrology'. In his treatise 'Return to Life Through Contrology' Pilates wrote "Contrology is complete co-ordination of body, mind and spirit". He placed emphasis on complete concentration and correct movements every time. He stressed that contrology was "not a system of haphazard exercises". The exercises were all designed to increase circulation and develop a flexible and rejuvenated body.
One of Joe's major concerns was that no one had learned to breathe properly. To use the full capacity of their lungs. Pilates equated his use of breath to an "internal shower". By filling the bloodstream with fresh blood, the toxins can be cleansed from the body. He also stressed that by using the breath in this way the muscles would have increased stimulation.
These are just some of the elements of Joseph Pilates' philosophies. The overall theme of his treatise was that he wanted people to use their bodies to their fullest capacities in order to stay healthier and live longer.
Excerpts quoted from "Return To Life Through Contrology", Joseph H. Pilates & William John Miller, The Christopher Publishing House.
Who is Pilates for?
Pilates is accessible to almost everyone. There are 500 exercises in the method. There are also variations and modifications of all of those exercises. So, no matter what your goal is, no matter how old you are, a Pilates program can be designed specifically for you to meet your needs and goals. Athletes and dancers practice Pilates to enhance their physical performance and to rehabilitate injuries.
Pilates is also used by people with less physically demanding jobs to correct posture, strengthen their bodies and create a sense of well being.
Certified Pilates Instructors are trained to create programs for clients from all walks of life, to assess and deal with each client as an individual.
Pilates for rehabilitation
Pilates is very effective in the rehabilitation of injuries. The key to healing an injury after diagnosis and treatment by a physician and/or health care practitioner is to regain strength and movement as soon as possible in a stress free environment.
The Pilates equipment provides an ideal stress free environment for the rehabilitation of injuries. It provides support for the body whilst strengthening, mobilising and/or stabilising the injured area. Specific exercises are applied to injuries and pathologies of all kinds.