Pilates is not a new fad. It has been around for nearly 100 years. It is a method of body conditioning developed by Joseph Hubertus Pilates (1880-1967) which uses specially designed equipment as well as traditional mat work. Joseph Pilates called his method “Contrology” which refers to the way that the method encourages the use of the mind to control the muscles.
Pilates consists of a series of precise, rhythmic, fluid movements achieved through a harmony of breath, concentration and control.
"Ideally our muscles should obey our will. Reasonably our will should not be dominated by the reflex action of our muscles." Joseph Pilates
It focuses on strengthening the core postural muscles of the body, named "The Powerhouse", which stabilize the torso and improve flexibility and strength for the body without building bulk. The exercises lengthen and strengthen all the major muscles in a balanced way.
The method is designed to strengthen the weaker postural muscle groups. As we go through life we settle into specific patterns of movement, the more frequently used muscles gradually get stronger while the under used muscles get weaker. This pulls the skeleton out of kilter leading to an unbalanced posture that requires much more energy to achieve a given movement. Pilates helps correct these inefficient patterns, resulting in more natural efficient movements.
Balance of mind and body is achieved through the adherence to the method’s inherent principles of concentration, centering, control, coordination of breath and integrated movement.
WHO WAS JOSEPH PILATES?
Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in 1880 in Dusseldorf, Germany. A sickly child, Joseph suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. A strong determination to overcome these illnesses and to improve his physical health and appearance bred a keen interest in body conditioning. As a result of this determination, Joseph Pilates became an accomplished skier, diver, gymnast and boxer.
In 1912 Joseph Pilates left Germany for England to train as a professional boxer, supporting himself by teaching self-defense to English police. His boxing ambitions soon ended with the outbreak of World War I where he was interned as an 'enemy alien' at a camp in Lancaster. While in the camp, Pilates continued to instruct in self-defense as well as bodybuilding.
He was later transferred to the Isle of Mann where he worked as a nurse; it was at this time that he designed exercise aides for bedridden patients using bedsprings and pulleys.
These basic implements have since evolved into the Pilates equipment used today. Indeed it was this experience that inspired Pilates to design the "Universal Reformer", a piece of exercise equipment now central to Pilates based studio work.
After the war Pilates returned briefly to Germany, where his exercise method gained favor in the dance community notably among Rudolf Von Laban and Hanya Holm. However concerns about the political situation and requests that he train the German army in his technique fueled his decision to leave Germany for America.
On the way to America he met his future wife and business partner, Clara. By 1923 Joseph and Clara had established their studio in New York. Once in New York, Pilates dedicated himself to fully developing his program for physical fitness, and he named his method "The Art and Science of Contrology". Influenced by the early Greeks, Pilates emphasized the role of the conscious mind in conditioning the body in his technique. A self taught genius, Pilates drew from many influences, eastern and western in design. A sound knowledge of anatomy and exercise experience underpinned and continues to underpin the development of the technique.
Once established in New York, Pilates attracted the attention of dancers and choreographers, most notably Martha Graham, George Balanchine, Eve Gentry... His technique and exercises were to spread quickly among the dance world.
Over the past 20 years, famous Pilates advocates like Madonna, Sharon Stone and Dustin Hoffman have increased public awareness of the benefits and results of Pilates.
Today, Pilates is recommended by many health professionals such as physiotherapists, osteopaths, orthopedists, neurologists and chiropractors as the ideal exercise to develop strength after many forms of illness or injury and to combat the stresses and strains caused by poor working conditions or bad postural habits (caused by everyday living).
When practiced under the supervision of a well trained teacher it is perfectly safe for any and everyone.