Pilates was pioneered by German born Joseph Hubertus Pilates in the early 20th century. During childhood he was afflicted with many conditions such as asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. The prognosis for Joseph was not good but he was determined to return his body to peak physical condition. He believed mental and physical health were closely connected. Through this determination he became a competent gymnast, diver, skier and boxer. He devised a series of exercises and training techniques, and engineered all the equipment specifications required to teach his methods properly. These are still the inspiration for the modern day reformer! In the 1920s Pilates emigrated to the U.S and opened a studio in New York where he taught his method of ‘contrology’ for many decades.
There are different types of pilates now from classical and mat pilates to reformer and Stott Pilates which may sound confusing if you haven’t tried them? Whatever pilates class you choose they should all focus on breathing, control, centring and flow. They maybe on a mat or using other equipment such as a reformer machine, and have different styles and influences. These types are also growing now incorporating for example barre or yoga.
Pilates is a great way to strengthen the body so find one that suits you and is right for the goals you want to achieve. Pilates uses a series of exercises designed to engage your core and lower back to improve posture, flexibility, stamina and strength. It is also used a lot to help reduce injuries such as back and neck pain and for general rehabilitation. It helps to get the body back in balance by a series of exact, controlled movements, targeting specific muscle groups and helping to identify where stronger or weaker areas are.
Pilates can be used for all ages and levels of fitness and ability as all the exercises can be progressed or regressed (modified) for each individual. It is great for toning the body by combining exercise and stretching into routines. This type of exercise is even more relevant due to lifestyle factors such as long working hours, being seated for long periods of times and for mental health aspects to name a few. It is important to find a certified instructor with a good qualification, someone who you enjoy working with. If you are very new to pilates or have specific injuries I would recommend either someone that specialises in your area of concern or find a small group class or one to one session to begin with.
Author Sarah Markham
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