Introduction To Pilates
A Brief History
The practice of Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates, who was born in Dusseldorf in 1883. He was apparently a sickly child who had suffered from conditions such as asthma and rickets. Determined to make himself healthy, he practiced various forms of exercise and recorded the results.
In 1912, he left Germany for Britain, where he became a professional boxer and a circus acrobat, as well as teaching self defence to detectives at Scotland Yard! After the outbreak of World War I, he was interred due to being a German national. He used this time to develop what is now known as Pilates.
During the 1920s, he and his wife Clara moved to the United States. They opened a fitness studio in New York, where it became popular with the dance community and attracted celebrities. Dancers found that the Pilates method helped them to recover from injuries, as well as avoid recurrence.
It was in 1970 that the Pilates method reached Britain, when a student of the London Contemporary School of Dance was invited to New York to learn about Pilates. On his return, he opened Britain's first Pilates studio. His first clients were actors and dancers, but doctors and physiotherapists soon started recommending the method to patients with injuries.
The method was originally called Contrology, but it became known as Pilates after the death of Joseph Pilates in 1967.
The practice of Pilates has evolved to use modern pieces of equipment, but the roots and core method remain the same.
Pilates exercises place emphasis on core strength. The exercises may use equipment, or may be mat work. Equipment can include hand weights, stretch bands and gym balls. There is also specialist Pilates equipment, such as the Wunda Chair. The chair is a resistance based workout machine, and exercises can be done on it either lying, sitting or standing. These exercises should help to strengthen the core, as well as the arms and legs.
Some may ask how Pilates differs to yoga. as they both work on core strength, flexibility and posture, as well as including the connection between mental and physical well being. Yoga tends to place more emphasis on relaxation techniques and often uses static poses, whereas Pilates uses a flow of movement. Pilates practice is also more likely to include apparatus along with mat work. Much yoga practice doesn't include the use of equipment.
Benefits of Pilates
Pilates can offer various benefits. Dancers and athletes have found it to be useful for developing strength and flexibility, as this can reduce the risk of injury. The main potential benefits are the development of core strength, improved flexibility, a better posture and increased awareness of the connection between mind and body.
There is evidence that it can be useful for those who experience back pain. The use of apparatus means that the exercises can be performed with support, although the method should be approved by a qualified health professional. Pilates may also be an aid to weight loss along with a healthy diet and aerobic activities.
One of the main benefits of practicing Pilates is that it can be tailored to individual needs, so it is suitable for a variety of ages and abilities.
Classes and Equipment
Pilates classes can vary in intensity, so it is important to choose one that suits your needs. Some classes are taught in a Pilates studio using apparatus, and some are taught in a general fitness centre using mats and small equipment.
If choosing a class using apparatus it is advisable to be taught on a one to one basis, at least until you have some experience in using the equipment. In the UK there is currently no requirement for a Pilates teacher to be qualified, so you may want to check their level of experience before choosing a class.
Most classes won't require you to bring any equipment as this should be provided, although you may want to buy your own mat.
Before starting any new form of exercise it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional, particularly if you have any injuries or medical conditions. This article is purely for information and is not intended as medical advice.