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HISTORY of pilates
Joseph Pilates was born in 1880 near Dusseldorf, Germany. As a child he suffered variously from rickets and asthma, but these early difficulties did not deter him. By the time he reached his early teens he was modelling for anatomy books and had become a superb natural athlete. This power of transformation was a quality that endured throughout his visionary life.
The details of Joseph Pilates' early years are somewhat obscure. During World War I he spent a number of years in a British internment camp just as deadly influenza epidemics were sweeping the country. During his time in the camp, Joseph developed a series of exercises he initially called “Contrology”. Devised as a physical fitness system fostering complete coordination of body, mind and spirit, Joseph taught his newly created exercises to his fellow internees. It was rumoured that no one in his camp died from influenza, a fact that Joseph attributed to his new exercise system. Encouraged, he set sail for America in 1925 to offer his Pilates method to the world.
On the voyage Joseph met his future wife Clara, who became a central component of his and the Pilates method’s later success. The couple arrived in New York City and opened the first ever Pilates studio. Athletes and dancers were among the first to recognize the benefits of the Pilates system.
Tragedy struck in 1966 when a fire destroyed much of the original Pilates studio. Josephnever fully recovered from this loss and injury, and in 1967, at the age he 87, he died. His wife Clara survived him for another decade.
Joseph Pilates advocated for pleasure as vigorously as he did for health and fitness. Ultimately, he was a man with a genuine love for life in all its varied experiences.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Pilates suitable for all ages and levels of fitness?
In the words of Joseph Pilates, himself, "Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. In order to achieve happiness, it is imperative to gain mastery of your body. If at the age of 30 you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If at 60 you are supple and strong then you are young." Whether you're an utter novice or a professional athlete or performer, consistent practice with The Pilates Method can help you gain a greater sense of well-being and a thorough integration of mind and body. The Pilates Method works on the fundamental principle of creating balance in the body, by combining flexibility and strength in equal measure to create a healthy moving body. The benefits of Pilates are multiple including a reduction in stress, better posture, and a fluid strong core. Pilates can also aid against injury, help with overall fitness, provide a means of safe and controlled exercise during pregnancy and for post-natal mothers, or for people recuperating from illness or injury.
What can I expect from taking a Pilates class? Will I improve if I can only take one class per week?
The central idea of Pilates is to increase both flexibility and strength in tandem, so that they work together to create a healthy and harmonious body. Even if you can only take one class per week, you will begin to see improvement in your overall fitness. The classes are designed so that you can continue to do the exercises at home, even at your office. Pilates is meant to be a lifelong pursuit, helping to keep practitioners feeling youthful and invigorated. The adaptability of Pilates allows the method to be modified to address the specific needs and problems of practitioners. This is particularly useful for people who are rehabilitating from injury or illness.
What type of clothing should I wear?
Any comfortable stretchy fitness attire is fine. Comfort is of the essence, but nothing too loose, as it is helpful if your instructor can see your body clearly, to make certain you are doing the exercises correctly.
If I am pregnant is Pilates still safe?
Yes, a recent article in Midwives journal advocated for the Pilates method during pregnancy as a means of gentle and controlled exercise. Even if you have chosen to give up more rigorous forms of exercise during your pregnancy, Pilates can help keep you strong and fit. It is also extremely beneficial as a post natal form of exercise for nursing mothers, and any woman who needs to feel capable and resilient during the challenging period in her life.
If I am recovering from an accident, illness, or another form of physical trauma, can I still take Pilates?
Yes! In fact, Joseph Pilates originally designed his system of exercises to help recuperating patients, who were hospitalized and laying flat on their backs in bed. Pilates is particularly useful for people who are in a rehabilitative mode, and need a form of exercise that won't further traumatize their bodies. In this regard, Pilates is invaluable in that it offers a means to gain strength, control and flexibility through gradual and incremental stages. As practitioners improve they can build upon their fitness level, increasing the level of challenge in a precise and exacting manner.
What can I expect from a regular work with the Pilates Method?
Joseph Pilates initially called his method of exercising "Contrology" which is an apt summation of how his system works. Joseph described the underlying philosophy of Pilates as “complete coordination of body, mind and spirit." Pilates helps to balance the entire body through attention to breathing, and an especial focus on the core muscles that support the spinal column. In essence, the exercises work from the inside out, beginning with the spine. Gaining power and mindfulness of the critical role of the spine can help to improve posture, alleviate back pain, and create a deeply centred and grounded sense of body and mind.
Isn't Pilates the same as Yoga?
Some people think Pilates is merely an offshoot of yoga or another fusion type exercise, but Pilates is actually a unique and entirely independent exercise system. The Pilates exercises were never designed to be a form of aerobic exercise, and Pilates bears little resemblance to other gym-based programs. In addition to mat work, Pilates is performed on specific pieces of equipment, designed by Joseph Pilates himself, including: the Reformer, the Trapeze Table, the Wunda Chair, the High Back Chair, the Ladder Barrel, the Half Barrel, the Spine Corrector, the Ped-O-Pul, the Head Harness, the Foot Corrector, the Toe Corrector, the Magic Circle, the Bean Bag and the Pinwheel. Pilates works differently from other forms of exercises, in that it is designed to strengthen and balance the entire body through a thorough integration of muscular strength and spinal flexibility. Instead of isolating specific muscle groups, the Pilates methodology incorporates breath control, elongation of muscles, joint flexibility, concentration and control to simultaneously address a number of different physical (and mental) issues.
What are the Benefits of Pilates?
The benefits of the Pilates method are as varied as the people who engage with the practice. From dancers and athletes, to post-partum women and people recovering from accidents -- Pilates offers a different approach to physical fitness. The most essential benefit of Pilates is a strong flexible spine. The strains and stresses of contemporary life (hours spent hunched over a keyboard, long commutes, etc..) place an undue strain on the spine, which is directly addressed through the Pilates method. This emphasis on the core of the body often has additional benefit of decreasing lower back pain while increasing flexibility and endurance. Another critical factor of the Pilates method is its emphasis on proper breathing. In Pilates correct and controlled breathing is used to aid the body in cleansing toxicity from the lungs, increase abdominal strength and diaphragm mobility.
Is Pilates really expensive?
Joseph Pilates initially designed his program to be accessible, affordable and simple enough for people to perform everyday. Ideally in-class work should be augmented by at-home exercise (preferably 3-4 times per week). Honouring the founding principles of Joseph, most reputable studios offer mat classes designed to be affordable for everyone. Practitioners who want one-on-one attention from instructors can book private sessions to address specific individual needs.