“It has something to do with the core,” “It’s something ballet dancers do,” “You have to be really strong to do Pilates,” “People like me don’t do Pilates.” These are some associations people have with Pilates, associations that often make Pilates seem inaccessible. This is part of the story, but not the whole one.
Because Pilates is a supported and gentle way to build and maintain strength, to rehabilitate from an injury, to manage chronic pain, and to reestablish healthy, efficient movement patterns, Pilates can be for most people. While the core is an important focus of Pilates there’s much more to this exercise system. The anatomy emphasis means that exercises have a muscle-specific focus, which enables building strength efficiently as you, the client, build your anatomical knowledge of your body. The prioritizing of precision of form and concentration over the number of reps enables you to strengthen your mind-body awareness. The focus on breath and whole body movement enables integration of the muscle-specific exercises, builds coordination and strengthens mind-body connection.
The following are the nine Pilates Movement Principles:
- Breathing – Breath links mind and body and is integrated into every movement in Pilates to focus awareness, support movement, and improve flow of oxygen through our bodies.
- Concentration – Being present in each exercise means that we do only as many repetitions of an exercise as we can while maintaining focus and attention.
- Control – We work to maintain alignment throughout an exercise using active intention to connect mind and body to movement.
- Centering – All movement radiates from the center.
- Precision – We work to perform exercises with optimum alignment.
- Balanced muscle development – Working in good alignment with “precision” overtime leads to balanced muscle development.
- Flow/rhythm – Connecting to the rhythm and flow of movement decreases the amount of stress on the joints, develop movement patterns that integrate body and mind into a flowing whole.
- Whole body movement – The goal is to integrate movement into a flowing whole body experience.
- Relaxation – Healthy, sustainable movement asks us to understand the balance between the amount of effort and ease we need to do a thing.
Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) in the early 20th Century. He was born in Germany in 1883 and as a child had rheumatic fever, asthma, rickets as a child. He began exploring ways to improve health and became intrigued with the classical notion of the ideal man who combined strong body and intellect. In pursuit of this goal did boxing, fencing, wrestling, and gymnastics. During WWI interned in camp on the Isle of Man – led fellow detainees in daily exercise program, which may have helped them resist the flu epidemic of 1918-1919. This brought him to attention of camp leaders who gave him a job as an orderly. He worked with 30 patients on exercising whatever they could move. This was exhausting and so came up with the ideas of attaching bed springs to the patient bed frames (first Cadillac). After brief period in Germany – decided to emigrate to US in 1926. There his system “Contrology” was embraced by the dance community – Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis, George Balanchine. He designed the Universal Reformer, Wunda Chair, Cadillac, Ladder Barrel during his life time. Joseph Pilates died in 1967 soon after his studio was destroyed by a fire.