It’s almost 2015. Why are people still asking me what Pilates is, and if it’s Yoga? Why isn’t everyone practicing Pilates? All the cool kids are doing it; Gwyneth, Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, Beckam, Tiger, Kobe, Ugo, Oprah. And remember Pippa’s derriere? Nuff said.
I’ve been a Pilates Instructor, and practitioner, for several years and I can’t imagine my life without it. I don’t know a lot, but what I do know for certain is that every person, no matter their level of fitness, will benefit from Pilates.
A Brief History
Pilates founder and inventor, Joseph Pilates, was born in Germany, and moved to England where he was interned in a concentration camp. During this time, he began to develop an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he called “Contrology.” He trained his fellow inmates and it’s told that these inmates survived the great pandemic of 1918 due to their good physical shape.
In 1925, Pilates migrated to the United States, and met his future wife, Clara, on the ship. The couple founded a studio in New York City, where they taught their students, including injured dancers, and athletes until 1967. There are first generation ‘masters’ who are still teaching the method and keeping Mr. Pilates’s legacy alive.
His method encouraged the use of the mind to control the muscles. Attention is paid to core postural muscles, that help keep the human body balanced and that provide support for the spine. Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath, alignment of the spine, and strengthen the deep abdominal muscles.
Pilates requires patience and persistence. It’s not about muscling through exercises or seeing how fast one can perform an exercise. Mr. Pilates believed that having a supple body that moves like a cat was healthier than having the body of a weight lifter. The exercises employ all of the bodies’ muscles, which results in proper development, leading to performing the work with “minimum effort and maximum pleasure.”
When one learns how to breathe properly, it improves lung capacity, and forces impurities out and clean air in. Pay attention the next time you’re working out and see if you’re holding your breath.
We lead sedentary lives, spending a good portion of our days hunched over computers, car steering wheels or smart phones. This has an adverse affect on our posture, and can result in muscle imbalances, tight backs and weak cores. Pilates addresses these issues, focusing on rebalancing, strengthening and stretching.
Mr. Pilates said that you’re only as healthy as your spine is flexible. Can you sit in a chair, bend over and tie your shoes? Go ahead, try it.
“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference. In 20 you’ll see a difference. And in 30, you’ll be on your way to having a whole new body.” -Joseph Pilates. I can personally attest to the accuracy of this quote. Those saddlebags that I was saddled with a few years ago, are gone and my THUT rides high. What more can you ask for?
Practicing Pilates is more than a physical system of exercises. It’s also includes the concentration and consciousness behind it. By practicing this method, you’re preparing your body for the unexpected. You’ll learn how to walk with a proper gait, making you feel taller, stronger and healthier. And how many times have you turned around to yell at your kids in the backseat of the car, because they’re fighting over the last carrot stick? When you practice Pilates, your body is ready for any sudden moves, twists and turns.
Practicing Pilates is a way of life. One doesn’t stop when you leave the studio or your class ends. This is the beauty. I can sit here all day and preach its benefits but I’d rather you experience it firsthand. Find a studio in your area and give it a shot.
Now go and lift your THUT!