Pilates, pioneered by the late Joseph Pilates (pictured above), is a mind-body exercise system designed to optimise physical fitness for people at every level of physical ability, and has been developed and practised since the 1920's.
No matter what your age or fitness level, it will work to dramatically transform the way your body looks, feels and performs.
Using gravity, breath and spring resistance, Pilates increases metabolism, promotes respiratory and circulatory function, and improves bone density and muscle tone. The core concept of Pilates is strengthening of the "Powerhouse" - the central muscle group encircling the abdomen, back and pelvis.
It builds strength without excess bulk, creating a sleek, toned body with slender thighs, a longer and linear musculature, and a flat abdomen.
It is this holistic approach that sets Pilates apart from many other forms of exercise. When long-standing patterns shift, practitioners feel an increased sense of freedom in their bodies and lives. And like Yoga and martial arts it can help you to "get centred" and calm your nerves.
Background on Pilates*
Joseph Pilates was born near Düsseldorf, Germany in 1880. As a child, Joseph suffered from several health ailments: asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever.
Joseph studied Eastern disciplines, like yoga and martial arts, and blended them with more Western forms of physical activities, such as bodybuilding, gymnastics, boxing and recreational sports; even incorporating ancient Greek and Roman forms of fitness practices. By the age of fourteen he had sculpted his physique to such an extent that he was posing for anatomical charts.
In 1912 he moved to England where he continued to box and taught self-defense.
When Britain entered World War I, his German citizenship led to his imprisonment along with other German nationals as “enemy aliens.” Despite the unfortunate circumstances, this was a fundamental period for the development of his method.
Photojournalist I.C. Rapoport, who interviewed Joseph in 1961, documents that Joseph said he observed animals in the camp stretching and incorporated this into the foundation of his matwork. During his imprisonment Joseph taught his exercises to fellow compatriots, and he later acted as a nurse-physiotherapist of sorts. Here he developed the first concepts for his innovative machines by disassembling the camp bunk beds and using the springs as a form of resistance to rehabilitate the injured and bed-ridden. Much of his equipment, although slightly adapted, is still in use today in many Pilates studios.
After the war, Joseph returned to Germany. He continued training police officers in Hamburg and also worked with dance and movement experts.
He immigrated to New York in the early 1920’s, and on the boat met Clara, a nurse. The two married and founded a studio that taught his developing method, called “Contrology.”
Joseph and Clara taught their method of using the mind to control the muscles to a devout following in New York. Local dancers came regularly to heal injuries quickly and improve their strength while maintaining their flexibility.
Breathing, proper posture, and the correction of various physical ailments were the focus at Joseph’s studio and in his two books: Your Health published in 1934 and Return to Life Through Contrology published in 1945. The essence of his work continues to change bodies and lives today through his publications and those individuals committed to furthering his revolutionary ideas.
*This text contains extracts from josephpilates.com
‘Change happens through movement and movement heals.’