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What is Pilates? - A Contemporary Approach to the Pilates Method
The Pilates Method is a safe and intelligent exercise choice for all ages and fitness levels beneficial for:
Fitness, toning and wellbeing
Strength and Flexibility
Pain Management and Prevention
Pre and Post Pregnancy
Conditioning for athletes, dancers
Pilates is a body conditioning exercise system designed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century in Germany. Pilates aims to improve physical strength, flexibility, posture, and enhance mental awareness. It works the whole body with emphasis on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing, developing a strong centre (or core) and improving coordination and balance, (Balanced Body, 2011). This method has developed and diversified over the last several decades integrating knowledge and skills from other therapies and movement fields. The Pilates Way practices contemporary approaches to the Pilates method whilst staying true to the original principles.
A pilates workout can be performed on specialised equipment or on the floor (Matwork) on an exercise mat. Smaller pieces of equipment such as foam rollers, therabands and balls may also be incorporated. Pilates is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Exercises can be modified for most injuries and physical conditions however check with your GP or physiotherapist before commencing a pilates program if you have any major concerns.
Originally referred to as 'Contrology', appropriately meaning 'the Science of Control', the Pilates Method was created by Joseph Pilates, born in Germany, 1880. Pilates (still fondly referred to as 'Joe') developed an interest in anatomy and physical activity at a young age, as a result, his frail health as a child. During World War 1 he developed his ideas on health and bodybuilding and used his methods to rehabilitate the injured and keep internees fit. He met his wife Clara after the war and together they traveled to America in 1926 where, with a mutual interest in health and the body, they opened a physical fitness studio in New York. Although Pilates had been influenced by the dance world in Germany it was in America that he mixed and worked with major innovators of dance and by the early ’60s was invited to teach young ballerinas at the New York City Ballet. Pilates passed away in 1967 with no line of succession. Clara continued his work with the ‘first generation’ teachers who had studied under him. True to his own stated belief that he was 50 years ahead of his time, it is only over recent years that the world has come to realise the great benefits of what the dance world has so long known. The Pilates method is now recognised as a leading practice in medicine and rehabilitation, for athletes and sporting bodies, celebrities, performers and the general population. (Image by I.C.Rapport).
'Joseph Pilates believed poor health is caused by modern-living, spine misalignment, and inefficient breathing, so he designed a method of physical exercise that could combat these things, and help people regain and maintain their physical health' - learn about the roots of the Pilates method and the man behind it in this video (video link), thewisdomdaily.com.
History of Pilates
'I am 50 years ahead of my time' (Joseph Pilates)
The Original Pilates Method Principles
Joseph Pilates original 6 principle serve as the fundamental concepts for beginner to advanced levels of Pilates practice. They include:
Concentration Focus of movements to make them more refined, intense and effective. Mind Body connection
‘You have to concentrate on what you're doing - all the time. And you must concentrate on your entire body' (Joseph Pilates)
Control "Contrology" was Joseph Pilates' preferred name for his method and it is based on the idea of muscle control. Execute all movements with focus, flow, precision and energy. The mind and body create the movement. '
The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment' (Joseph Pilates)
Centring All work must rotate around the control from the core of the body and focus of the mind.
Precision Work is refined and perfected to create efficient movement
Flowing Movement Energy and focus keep movements flowing from one to another, creating continuous control
Breathing Breath is used to assist, challenge, release and energise
Pilates and 'the Core'
Pilates is often associated with ‘core’ strengthening. Despite popular belief the ‘core’ is not a matter of building up a good ‘six-pack’. Some of the major core stabilising muscles lie deep within the torso and are generally attached to the spine, pelvis and shoulder blades. The contraction of these deep ‘core’ muscles stabilises the spine, pelvis and shoulders to form a solid base in a variety of postural positions before and during movement of the arms and legs.
Stability and mobility of the torso and the limbs in movement is important for strong physical wellbeing and your Pilates instructor will facilitate correct movement patterns throughout the body. During a Pilates class your instructor will continuously prompt you to concentrate deeply on your stabilising muscles, as well as on your breath, the contraction of your muscles, the alignment of your body, and the quality (not quantity) of your movements. These are key elements of Pilates, and your instructor will emphasize them at every session.
Sources: Balanced Body, 2011, Pilates International Training Centre, 2007; Friedman and Eisen 2005