The Pilates Advantage

Pilates 101

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the late 1800’s in Germany, by Joseph Pilates. In the early 1920’s he traveled to New York City and opened his studio. He rehabilitated many dancers and acrobats as well as people with post-mastectomy and other physical limitations. As of 2005, there were 11 million people practicing Pilates regularly and 14,000 instructors in the United States (Please see qualifications for a Pilates Instructor at www.thepilatesmethodalliance.org and click on “Find a PMA Certificant” to see instructors in your area who have completed this final step to become Pilates certified).

To enjoy the full benefit of Pilates training, you need to know what the signs of a genuine Pilates workout are, beyond the exercises.

Below are 5 questions you can ask yourself about your workout routine, no matter where you exercise; just to be sure you are on track to getting all that Pilates has to offer.

Is your body developing uniformly?

The uniform development of muscles and the body form in general is one of the hallmarks of Pilates training. To develop a uniform musculature, which is the most attractive and functional, your workouts need to be full-body workouts.

Is your Pilates training based on the Pilates principles?

The principles of Pilates take Pilates out of the realm of general exercise and into the mentality of body/mind/spirit integration, which is one of the major goals of Pilates. The principles are: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow.

Are you breathing fully?

Yes, breathing is one of the principles above, but learning to breathe well is so essential to Pilates workouts that we need to examine its role in our workouts separately. Your main focus during a Pilates workout should be the breathing and not just on the physical exercises.

Are you doing spinal articulations?

Attention to a flexible spine cannot be overlooked in evaluating Pilates workouts. The benefits of Pilates for the back muscles and spine do not come only because Pilates exercises develop core strength thereby stabilizing the spine–often cited as the primary way to help with back pain. Keeping the spine flexible is a top priority as well. The spinal articulation exercises are somewhat unique to Pilates. They are intended to stimulate the spine and increase flexibility. Traditional Pilates is NOT recommended for many people including those with osteoporosis, degenerative disk disease, scoliosis and many other spine issues. A qualified instructor with knowledge in these areas is the key to staying safe. Please check out out Specialty Programs.

Does your workout leave you feeling energized?

Pilates is not just exercise, it is a program of fitness meant to enhance your health: body, mind and spirit. Your workouts should leave you feeling good, and better able to accomplish not only the physical tasks of daily life but also to take joy in living.

Joseph Pilates called his method Contrology, because he believed that his method uses the mind to control the muscles. Pilates is a body conditioning routine that helps to not only build flexibility, but also strength, endurance, and coordination in the legs, abdominals, arms and back.

Benefits of Pilates

  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Strong center
  • Mobile Joints
  • Postural Awareness
  • Toned muscles
  • Efficient movement
  • Neuromuscular Connection
  • Coordination

Joseph Pilates

joesph_portraitJoseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880.  He was a sickly child, plagued with rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever.  His drive to overcome these ailments led him to explore and practice bodybuilding, gymnastics, diving and other physical pursuits.  He studied Eastern and Western philosophies and forms of exercise and was greatly influenced by Greek and Roman regimens.  This background provided him with the foundation, shaped by his experiences, to innovate a system that he developed throughout his life.

In 1912, while interned during World War I, he taught and practiced his physical fitness program and began devising apparatus to aid in the rehabilitation of the disabled and sick.

In 1925 he emigrated to America and en route met a young nurse named Clara.  She became his wife, and shortly thereafter, an integral partner in helping develop and teach his method.  In 1926 they set up their first studio in New York City, which attracted a diverse population including socialites, circus performers, gymnasts, dancers and athletes.

Over the course of his career Pilates developed more than 600 exercises for the various pieces of apparatus he invented.  His guiding philosophy was that achieving good health means that the whole being — body, mind and spirit — must be addressed.