The concept of the Pilates exercise systems has really taken off in the last few years. Is pilates an extension of yoga or does it stand alone and what about the machines that we hear about?
This section is a brief on Pilates and it’s origins.
What is Pilates?
Pilates was invented and developed in the 20th century by a man named Joseph Pilates. This system of exercise is targeted towards improving the body by toning and conditioning all muscle groups while developing better breathing habits, improving posture and learning to use the mental concentration and focus.
It helps to improve overall balance and dexterity (co-ordination) as well as streamlining the body and helping to improve flexibility. It is extremely good for rehabilitation from injury and degenerative conditions.
The great thing about pilates is that the exercises are gentle yet challenging and are designed to place as little strain on the body as possible. Therefore Pilates can be practiced by anyone regardless of age and exercise experience. Although a lot of pilates exercises are designed with machines in mind there are a lot of exercises that require only the participation of the individual. You can do Pilates at home if you want.
Who is Joseph Pilates?
Joseph H Pilates was born and raised in Germany. As a young child growing up he suffered from rickets and other illnesses. As he became older he became determined to strengthen his weak and frail body and developed a real interest in health and fitness.
He began to study and experiment with different methods of exercise including yoga and boxing to help strengthen his body. He called his method the Art of Contrology because of the focus required in complete control of the muscles with the mind.
During the First World War he served as an orderly and became involved with the treatment of patients who were disabled and immobile. This was where the exercise/equipment system of pilates was born.
Various pieces of apparatus including springs that were attached to beds were developed to help in exercise and rehabilitation. It was here that Joseph quickly became aware that patients recovered a lot faster when springs and resistance were used. These techniques led to the development of the machine which is now known as the "Reformer".
After the War he moved to New York to open a fitness studio where his techniques soon came to the attention of the rich and famous of that day. He continued to develop his techniques and perfect his methods and wrote several books on fitness but never set up an official training program. Now in the 21st century the disciples originated by Joseph Pilates have many versions and interpretations of his methods, however they all retain the principles of their origins.