What is Pilates?

Pilates, also known as Contrology as Joseph Pilates himself called it,  is a series of exercises that involve working muscles from the inside out. This means changing the way our muscles have become used to working either due to environment pressures, lifestyle, occupation, stress, injuries etc. Pilates aimes to  re-educate the brain and how it controls the muscles. Through Pilates we can re - tune the muscle recruitment firing patterns, in order to correct muscular imbalances and restore good posture and alignment within the body. In short - over time our muscle  may adopt postures and alignment that may later cause us pain, or our postures get progressively deteriorate.  Pilates can help target specific muscles to help improve posture where needed. For example the world we live in today, many people (including youngsters) spend hours in front of a computer, at a desk or even just on tablet devices. Without realising it over time, they may develop a posture where the upper back is becoming rounded, the head maybe stooped forward and generally adopting more of  slouched forward posture. Pilates would aim to lengthen the spine, stretch the chest muscles back out and strengthen the back and core  to regain a more desirable, postural alignment.

The Pilates training system, will improve your body awareness by connecting the mind and body through breathing and concentration and  control. The slow pace of the movements allow you to take more control of your own body and have  better connection to how it feels, within that particular moment. The beauty of Pilates and why I love teaching it so much is the positive effects it has, not only during class but the way in which it  also enhances every day life away from the studio. I also love teaching Pilates as it helps so many different people and is adaptable to each individuals needs and bodies. It can help all different people, from those rehabilitating after injury or who have  restricted mobility, to elite athletes. Pilates is suitable for almost everyone. 

A phrase I often here is "It's too slow for me! I like high impact classes!"  Correct, Pilates is not a high impact class but nor does it claim to be! Nor is it supposed to form or replace your fitness regime, its supposed to enhance it! Pilates is for those who want to improve the way their bodies function and for those that would like more balance, to their bodies and minds.

In simple terms, Pilates should lengthen, strengthen you and improve mobility, thus improving physical fitness, posture and general health of the mind and body. 

The benefits

  • Corrects posture, alignment and muscle in balances.
  • Improve physical fitness
  • Build strength
  • Develop better flexibility & mobility 
  • improve body awareness, proprioception and co ordination.
  • Improves balance
  • Facilitates the optimal function of international organs
  • Teaches correct muscle activation and recruitment, through isolating specific muscles.
  • Connects the mind and body, creating a finer tuned body
  • Releases tension, allowing for a more relaxed state of being
  • focus on breathing and control, allowing for the mind and body to work uniformly.
  • Promotes feelings of vitality.

The history of Pilates

The Pilates method of training was created over 100 years ago by Joseph Pilates. Joseph Pilates was born in 1880 in Germany. As a chid he suffered from Asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Determined to overcome his physical limitations with exercise, he went onto become competent in many sports such as skiing, gymnastics and diving. 

In 1912 Joseph Pilates went to England where he worked for Scotland Yard as a self defence instructor, until he was interned to the Isle of Man during the first world war. He continued to develop his ideas, by training other internees and this is  where the idea of the Pilates Cadilac was born! He attached springs and pulleys to hospital beds to enable injured and bed ridden patients to be able to exercise, through his own resistance training ideas he helped to rebuild their strength and mobility. Joseph Pilates claims that the 1918 influenza outbreak that claimed thousands of peoples lives, did not effect any of his trainees due to the effectiveness of his training!

After Joseph Pilates was released he returned to Germany where his training methods began to grow in popularity, especially amongst the dance community. Two famous dancers began to use his methods - Rudolf Von Laban and Hanya Holm., and they are still party of Holm Dance Curriculam to this day! Joseph Pilates always said "I am 50 years ahead of my time!" And he was right!

In 1926, Joe emigrated to the United States and he met  Clara Zeuner, whom he later married. Together they opened a fitness studio in New York, which shared the same address as the New York City Ballet School. Joe would teach many dancers in his studio and he was also invited to teach within the Ballet school itself!

By the 1960's, the Pilates method, was also growing in popularity out side of New York too,
the  New York Herald Tribune noted in 1964: “in dance classes around the United States, hundreds of young students limber up daily with an exercise they know as ‘a pilates’, without knowing that the word has a capital P, and a living, right-breathing namesake.”

Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 83 in New York. He  left no will and had designated no line of succession for the Pilates work to carry on. Clara continued to operate what was known as the Pilates Studio on Eighth Avenue in New York and  his work would continue to flourish and grow, as his proteges continued to teach his methods. 

Several of his students went on to open their own studios, and continued to teach Joseph Pilates methods. 

In the 1970s, Hollywood celebrities discovered Pilates via Ron Fletcher’s studio in Beverly Hills.

As the media picked up on celebrities leaving Pilates classes, interest and knowledge of Pilates classes began to spread world wide.. The general public wanted to do Pilates. As popularity grew Pilates soon become more accessible to more people! 

Pilates has now entered the fitness mainstream. It is not only featured in fitness facilities all over the world, but has become a crucial training adjunct to  athletes all over the world. Many olympic athletes claim to do Pilates as part of their fitness regime swell as footballers. Andy Murray,  the British Tennis Superstar , spoke to the Wall St Journey about the benefits he gained from doing Pilates after recovering from a back injury. Pilates continues to grow in popularity and It is also now widely recommended by Doctors, Physiotherapist and Osteopaths as safe and effective exercise regime.

Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit.
— Joseph Pilates