What is Pilates
Pilates is a fitness program named after its creator Joseph Pilates. The primary foundation of pilates is based on effective breathing, alignment of the spine, and activation of the core muscles. Breath is the initial source of human energy, the spine is the conduit of that energy throughout your physical body, and proper activation of your core muscles maintain the integrity of your entire system by ensuring proper posture, and natural movement. Routine practice of pilates improves strength, balance, and endurance, while maintaining flexibility throughout the body.
Joseph Pilates was born in 1883. As a sickly child suffering with asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever, he was forced to embrace a life that revolved around the pursuit of physical fitness, or otherwise pay the inevitable consequences of poor self care. He explored many health programs from boxing to jiu-jitsu, body-building, gymnastics, dance, and yoga. In 1912 he moved to England where he became a self defense trainer for Scotland Yard. In his late 20’s, during WWII, he was placed in a German Internment Camp in England, where he was inspired to create a series of fitness routines for his fellow inmates with limited access to athletic equipment and training devices. Through his continued exploration of yoga and various other modalities, Joseph incorporated his observations of the movements of animals into a series of simple postures and movements that he called ‘Contrology’.
Joseph immigrated to the United States in 1929. Joseph and his wife, Clara, opened a studio in New York city where they acquired a loyal and growing following among the professional dance community who practiced Joseph’s Contrology both for rehabilitative and enhanced performance purposes. As the message spread of ballerinas studying at the Pilates gym in New York, high society ladies started attending, and the Pilates name soon became a household word. As more students became teachers of Contrology, Joseph’s methods became more frequently referred to by his surname, Pilates. Joseph himself taught Contrology to the late age of 83 when he died in 1967. As of 2005, there were 11 million people practicing the discipline regularly and 14,000 instructors in the United States.
Through his years of teaching and rehabilitating people, Joseph Pilates came to believe that the “modern” life-style and its promotion of bad posture and ineffective breathing are the primary contributors to poor health. Fundamentally, Joseph Pilates believed health was based on thorough integration of spirit, mind, and body. As stated in Wikipedia "Contrology, related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles, focusing attention on core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine, and strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles.”
Joseph Pilates wrote two books about his Contrology training method: Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education in 1934, and Return to Life Through Contrology in 1945.
Pilates and the Core Muscles
Pilates exercises places primary focus on the core muscles of the body, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘powerhouse’ of your body, because it is the foundation of nearly every physical activity. The core is essentially all of the muscles of your chest, torso, abdomen, pelvis and gluteus. Your core is the essential muscle group that helps you maintain balance, whether you are standing, walking, running, or doing any simple activity like cooking or more complex athletic endeavors. Well developed and activated/engaged core muscles are essential for proper posture. Joseph Pilates' concerns about the debilitating 'modern lifestyle' was a visionary perspective years ahead of the modern adage that ’sitting is the new smoking’. As more and more people turn to desk jobs, and computer use has become a household activity, postural issues are at near epidemic proportions.
Joseph Pilates’ dedication to his craft inspired him to create very specific devices to target specific muscles or muscle groups. ‘Apparatus’ is Joseph Pilates preferred reference to his devices, or even in the event of the ‘Pilates Reformer’ Joseph often referred to his premier device as ‘the apparatus’. These words are still utilized among Pilates purists to this day. Ultimately, numerous prices of equipment and apparatus (apparatus is the plural for of apparatus) have been designed for the Pilates workout, and can essentially fall into two groups.
Small, portable Pilates equipment:
- magic circle
- resistance bands
Large, stationary Pilates apparatus (plural):
Pilates Equipment: The Cadillac
The Pilates Cadillac targets specific muscle groups
The original Pilates Apparatus: The Reformer
Reformer head & shoulder supports
Pilates exercise: spring based resistance training
Pilates Mat Exercises
Its not essential to use any equipment to practice pilates. Whether in a class or a personal training session, most Pilates beginners are introduced to a series of simple mat exercises that can be added to and expounded upon over time. Typically, Pilates is intended to be a low intensity workout designed to cultivate the body over time. A licensed Pilates trainer is essential to learning how to do the exercises properly so as to not adversely impact the body, but once these exercises are mastered they are designed for ease of use, so that anyone may conveniently practice Pilates in any peaceful setting that simply has enough floor space to lay down and stretch out. As a person progresses through their Pilates training an experienced Pilates instructor will encourage the targeting of certain muscles to develop more balanced conditioning; such cases may often result in the Pilates instructor utilizing the specialized Pilates equipment and apparatus detailed above.
Pilates Mat Exercises w Power Circle