What is Pilates?

History of Pilates

“I’m fifty years ahead of my time.” –Joseph Pilates

The ingenious method of Pilates (pronounced pil-ah-teez) was developed by German-born Joseph Pilates (1880-1967). Like many other innovators of physical therapy, childhood frailty gave him the determination to overcome his various afflictions through self-discipline and hard work. He creatively rehabilitated himself by combining Eastern and Western forms of conditioning, including gymnastics, boxing and yoga. During World War I, while Joseph was working as an orderly at an infirmary, he engineered ways to rig springs, pulleys and straps to hospital beds to offer light resistance exercises to bedridden patients, and thus the seed for Pilates equipment was planted…

A unique kind of exercise

Pilates exercises use controlled movements, primarily focused in the core, to improve muscle balance, strength, flexibility and mind-body awareness in order to support healthy bodies. The constant focus on activation of the deep abs and pelvic stabilizers during each exercise support the spine and protect it from injury, strengthening those muscles made weak by pain, injury, inactivity or poor postural habits.

It is truly all gain, no painand profoundly transforms the way your entire body looks, feels and performs. Very different from a conventional workout that tends to be monotonous and high-impact, the 500+ Pilates exercises are performed on both specialized apparatus (not quite Joseph’s original make-shift equipment!) and floor mats, often with props.  The unique, adjustable springs on the equipment provide resistance as the muscles contract, so there is very little stress on the joints, ligaments and tendons.

Be balanced. Be safe. Be challenged.

In conventional workouts, weak muscles tend to get weaker and strong muscles tend to get stronger. The result is muscular imbalance – a leading cause of injury and chronic back pain. Quite simply, one can only be “too strong” if he or she doesn’t have the laxity in their joints to support such strength. Conversely, one can only be “too flexible” if he or she doesn’t have the strength to support such a full range of motion. Thus, Pilates emphasizes balancing strength with flexibility, evenly conditioning the body – from head to toes!

Pilates is so safe, it is often used as a form of physical therapy to rehabilitate and heal damaged structures. But, this doesn’t mean Pilates is easy! Pilates is an extremely adaptable exercise system. Modifications to the exercises allow for a range of difficulty ranging from fundamental to very advanced. Pilates also allows for modifications based on individual body types, and simple variations can be made to accommodate specific physical needs including infirmities, imbalances or movement limitations. Get the workout that best suits you now, and increase the intensity as your body conditioning improves. Pilates is truly for anybody and everybody – from the extreme athlete to those rehabilitating back to health.