Pilates, named after Joseph Pilates, is a body conditioning method based on the fusion of body and mind which results in improved posture, flexibility, strength and the transformation of the way a person's body feels, looks and performs. Pilates was originally developed as a rehabilitation program for World War I veterans. Joseph Pilates, a boxer and performer, developed a set of exercises known as "matwork" or "contrology" from his studies and apprenticeships in Zen, Yoga and ancient Roman and Greek physical regimens. Because he believed so strongly in the mind-body connection, his methods were developed with precise movements that emphasized control and form over the entire body. Through awareness and practice of centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing and flow, the Six Pilates Principles & Philosophical Foundations, a person can experience a dramatic whole body transformation. Refreshing, energizing, and fully engaging are some of the words practitioners use to describe the "exercise in balance" Pilates phenomenon.
Pilates is different from other exercise program in that it focuses on multiple muscle groups at the same time. Joseph Pilates believed it was important to build a "powerhouse" or core as it is more typically referred to today. The core consists of the muscles that run underneath the shoulder blades, around the ribcage and down the hips and gluteals. Core control is achieved by the integration of the shoulder girdle, pelvis and trunk. Pilates techniques assert that physical energy and movement exerted from the core should coordinate or flow outward to the limbs. All methods are built on controlled movement and muscle control. Because Pilates created every movement with a purpose, each one is vitally important to the success of the whole. Pilates exercises will not only strengthen weak muscles, but will also elongate muscles that tend to be tight both resulting in improved joint mobility, improved muscle elasticity and complete body balance. Joseph Pilates further believed that successful Pilate's practices would carryover into everyday life improving how a person's body felt and moved outside the studio.
In addition to matwork, there are a variety of Pilates machines. Mat exercises require a person to use their own body weight as resistance, while machines provide additional spring resistance. Joseph Pilates designed these spring loaded machines to help guide the body into correct form during an exercise.
The Six Pilates Principles are the foundation of the 500+ exercises that condition the entire body:
Pilates breathing is done with precision, control and concentration. Joseph Pilates believed that circulating blood could awaken the cells in the body. For the blood to do its work properly, he believed it had to be charged with oxygen so wastes related to fatigue could be purged from the body. He believed that full and thorough inhalation and exhalation were key to oxygenating muscles and are a part of every exercise. Forced exhalation is key to full inhalation. Practitioners are instructed to engage their deep abdominal and pelvic muscles and breathe deep into the back and sides of their ribcage as they exhale and then maintain this engagement as they inhale.
The energy for all Pilates exercises is said to begin from the center or core and flow outward to the limbs. Joseph Pilates believed it is vitally important to build a strong "powerhouse". By maintaining control of the core muscles a person creates stability and a strong foundation for the practice of Pilates.
Quality of movement is vitally important in the Pilates workout and is emphasized over quantity of repetitions. By concentrating on smooth, controlled movements, the practitioner becomes acutely aware of how their body feels. It is important in Pilates that the mind is in tune with the body thus concentration is key to every movement in every exercise.
Pilates is built on muscle control thus uncontrolled, sloppy movements defeat the purpose of the practice. By teaching balance and control of the body, Pilates teaches the body and person to work more efficiently.
Pilates focuses on perfect and precise movements. Every movement has a purpose, and to leave out any detail forsakes the intrinsic value of the exercise. Precision is to become second nature as a person progresses in their Pilates training.
Efficiency of movement is to be continuous between exercises. Exercises are intended to flow within and into each other through appropriate transitions. Flow will build strength and stamina and through continuous movements can re-train the body to move more efficiently and safer.
Pilates is safe and the amazing benefits are available to just about anyone. Top athletes and professional dances use Pilates not only to build strength and help reduce injury, but also for improvement of flexibility and agility. Models and celebrities practice Pilates to help maintain beautiful physiques. Practitioners love Pilates for the body conditioning it truly provides; toned and strengthened core muscle groups, heightened body awareness, injury prevention, increased flexibility and control, improved posture and balance, and ease of movement through daily life.