Pilates is a form of exercise that was developed in the 1920s by Joseph Hubertus Pilates (1880 – 1967). Having grown up weak and sickly, he suffered from a variety of diseases during his youth. Determined to overcome his weaknesses, Joseph Pilates began exercising and developing his own methods to achieve greater health. Over time, he became a competitive athlete in gymnastics, diving, and skiing.
Pilates was not always named after its creator. Originally, Joseph Pilates called his system Contrology, focusing on the foundational principles of mind-body control and core strength. He began teaching his system in London, England during WWI while being detained because of his nationality on the Isle of Man. During this period Joseph Pilates was able to further develop his methods and raise the health of other internees and disabled individuals in the camp hospital.
Eventually, Joseph Pilates immigrated to the United States where he was able to set up a training center in New York City with his wife. His methods quickly became popular with dancers, gymnasts, actors, and other athletes for the superior levels of body control his students developed.
Joseph Pilates continued the development of his methods for over 80 years. During this time, his students were primarily fit and healthy individuals, which lead to many advanced forms of training that required complex machines to perform the exercises. After his death, many of the well-trained students brought his methods to a greater population by focusing on the needs of beginners.
Principles of Pilates
Pilates incorporates a variety of principles reflecting the influences of yoga, Alexander Technique, meditation, gymnastics, and dance. Pilates instruction always includes the following principles to maintain its efficiency and effectiveness.
During each Pilates exercise, keep the mind alert by focusing on every movement. This will develop the mind-body connection, allowing you to relax and use only the necessary muscles. The cultivation of mindfulness on the action you are performing will enhance your control of the mind in all aspects of life.
Each movement should be performed precisely to work the muscles effectively and avoid injury. You will develop this ability gradually by repeating the exercises with consciousness. You may not be able to move your body in the ideal manner initially, but your ability to control your body will increase with each Pilates session.
The source of the body's power and movement originates from an area that Pilates instructors often refer to as the core or powerhouse. The muscles of the abdomen, hips, and lower back form this center. They function to stabilize and protect the body during movement.
Correct breathing is essential to health. It is common to either hold your breath or improperly breathe using only the upper third of the lung during exercise. Pilates trains you to perform lateral breathing using the diaphragm that allows the lungs to more effectively expand and achieve maximum efficiency of breathe. During Pilates exercises, it is important to exhale during exertion and inhale during recovery.
Each movement during Pilates should be performed in a flowing manner, avoiding jerky movements. Each exercise should be continuously with no breaks or variations in the speed of movement. By developing this fluid feel, you will cultivate the graceful movement of a dancer.
The performance of each movement in Pilates requires precision. Practice may be necessary to develop a through understanding of the exercises; however, learning the exact movements will prevent injury and provide maximum health benefit.
Repeated practice is an essential component of developing your mind-body connection and strengthening your body. Following a pre-determined routine for successive Pilates sessions will allow you to familiarize yourself with the mechanics of each exercise, developing deeper connections with each session.
Isolation involves the focus of your mind on the specific muscles used during a movement. By mentally connecting with each Pilates movement, you will increase your mind's specific control of each part of your body. This ability will eventually allow you coordinate and balance your entire body with every movement.