Pilates is a form of exercise, developed by Joseph Pilates, which emphasizes the balanced development of the body through core strength, flexibility, and awareness in order to support efficient, graceful movement.
Pilates is one of the most popular exercise systems in the country.
Indeed, one of the best things about the Pilates method is that it works so well for a wide range of people. Athletes and dancers love it, as do elderly, women rebounding from pregnancy and people who at various stages of physical rehabilitation.
The top benefits doing of Pilates exercise that people report are that they become stronger, longer, leaner, and more able to do anything with grace and ease.
Pilates is an Adaptable Method
Modification is the key to Pilates exercise success with a variety of populations. All exercises are developed with modifications that can make a workout safe and challenging for a person at any level.
Core strength is the foundation of Pilates exercise. The core muscles are the deep, internal muscles of the abdomen and back. When the core muscles are strong and doing their job, as they are trained to do in Pilates, they work in tandem with the more superficial muscles of the trunk to support the spine and movement.
As you develop your core strength you develop stability throughout your entire torso. This is one of the ways Pilates helps people overcome back pain. As the trunk is properly stabilized, pressure on the back is relieved and the body is able to move freely and efficiently.
The Six Pilates Principles:
Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breath, and Flow
For many, these six principles are the foundation of the Pilates approach to exercise. Their application to the Pilates method of exercise is part of what makes it unique in the fitness world.
Joseph Pilates originally called his work "contrology." He considered this to be a body/mind/spirit approach to movement founded on the integrative effect of principles such as centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow. Whether one is working out on a mat or using Pilates equipment, these basic principles infuse each exercise with intention and fullness of expression:
- Centering: Physically bringing the focus to the center of the body, the powerhouse area between the lower ribs and pubic bone. Energetically, Pilates exercises are sourced from center.
- Concentration: If one brings full attention to the exercise and does it with full commitment, maximum value will be obtained from each movement.
- Control: Every Pilates exercise is done with complete muscular control. No body part is left to its own devices.
- Precision: In Pilates, awareness is sustained throughout each movement. There is an appropriate placement, alignment relative to other body parts, and trajectory for each part of the body.
- Breath: Joseph Pilates emphasized using a very full breath in his exercises. He advocated thinking of the lungs as a bellows -- using them strongly to pump the air fully in and out of the body. Most Pilates exercises coordinate with the breath, and using the breath properly is an integral part of Pilates exercise.
- Flow: Pilates exercise is done in a flowing manner. Fluidity, grace, and ease are goals applied to all exercises. The energy of an exercise connects all body parts and flows through the body in an even way. Pilates equipment, like the reformer, are very good mirrors of one's flow and concentration as they tend to bang around and suddenly become quite "machine-like" if one loses ones control and flow.
The Pilates principles may sound a bit abstract, but the integration of these principles accounts for the balance, grace, and ease that one can experience as a result of practicing Pilates.
The Pilates method has always emphasized quality over quantity, and you will find that, unlike many systems of exercise, Pilates exercises do not include a lot of repetitions for each move. Instead, doing each exercise fully, with precision, yields significant results in a shorter time than one would ever imagine.
Pilates is a Unique Method of Exercise.
Core strength and torso stability, along with the six Pilates principles, set the Pilates method apart from many other types of exercise. Weight lifting, for example, can put a lot of attention on arm or leg strength without attending much to the fact that those parts are connected to the rest of the body! Even running or swimming can seem like all arms and legs, with either a floppy or overly tense core. Ultimately those who really succeed at their sport learn to use their core muscles, but in Pilates this integrative approach is learned from the beginning.
Mat Work and Equipment
Pilates exercises are done on either on a mat on the floor, Pilates mat work, or on exercise equipment developed by Joseph Pilates. The workout equipment that we use in Pilates generally utilizes pulleys and resistance from the participants own body weight on the machine and graduated levels of springs. The reformer is probably the best-known piece of resistance equipment that you will encounter at a Pilates studio.
The Pilates Method of exercise was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. It was originally used as a rehabilitation program for prisoners of war and was later found to be of great benefit to anyone seeking a higher level of fitness. The work was kept alive over the years by a small group of Joseph Pilates devoted students until just a few years ago, when exercise science caught up to the principles that Pilates had been teaching all along, and now we enjoy the rich evolution of the Pilates work that we have today.