The man behind Pilates magic!

2013Mar19_Pilates_AMillions upon millions of fitness fans cannot be wrong! Pilates seems to be the must-do exercise program of the decade. But Pilates really started to really gain popularity in the 1990s, despite having been developed early in the 20th Century! But other than a useful exercise, do you know exactly what Pilates is? Who developed it and why? What was the purpose, idea and theory behind one of the most popular exercise systems to date?

Well first, lets take a look at the benefits of Pilates, which are many and varied. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Increased flexibility and mobility

  • A stronger core

  • Longer, leaner and more agile muscles

  • Better posture and body movements

  • Benefits bone mass

  • Release from tensions and pain

  • Core control and stability

To get a fuller picture of Pilates, including what it is and how it came about is interesting and puts the exercises in context too. To get the lowdown read our quick fact file:

Q1 – Who ‘invented’ Pilates and when?

Joseph Pilates created the Pilates method during World War I in Europe, before bringing it to the US in the 1920s. After becoming popular in the dance community, it spread and some 50 years later people in the fitness community really started to take notice. The rest is history

Q2 – How do you say ‘Pilates’?

The usual pronunciation is: pill-ahh-tees.

Q3 – What was his background?

Joseph Pilates was German, born in the 1880s and was living in England where he had an interesting mix of careers including a bodybuilder, circus performer and boxer, as well as self-defense teacher at Scotland Yard. During WWI his German origins meant he was interned in a camp. He stayed in England before moving back to Germany and working with a well-known dancer there, and then on to the US in 1925. He set up a studio where he taught until the 1960s, working mainly with dancers and the art-community. He died in the late 60s at aged 83.

Joseph Pilates was not a robustly healthy child and his weakness and ailments went a long way to inspiring his varied ideas on healing and health and fitness. Perhaps because of his past illnesses and in-depth understanding he created a system that integrates body and mind and brings about body-awareness. Pilates is the polar opposite of jumping around in a high-energy cardio class!

Q2 – Why did he create Pilates exercises?

During his internment Joseph wanted to continue to train and teach others and he focused in on minimal equipment exercises and developing a system of integrated floor exercises which was an early form of Mat Pilates. He worked with injured soldiers too, who needed rehabilitation. By using hospital equipment such as pulleys and bedsprings, he developed resistance exercises. Today these have become Reformer Pilates whereby each person uses an individual piece of  resistance equipment.

Q4 – What are the basic principles of Pilates?

Centering, Control, Flow, Breathing, Precision, and Concentration. Pilates is about controlled movements that use the lungs and align the spine. Pilates works on the deeper muscles rather than just on the superficial level, creating strength and stability in the core.

Q5 – What makes Pilates unique?

Joseph Pilates was famed for saying that he was 50 years ahead of his time. As understanding of physiology and the effect of exercise on the body have developed, the reputation of Pilates as a strengthening, lengthening and transformative system has really taken hold. The idea that you need to take what was termed ‘contrology’ or controlled approach, aside from cardio, to really develop the muscles, is what sets Pilates apart.

A well known quote by Joseph Pilates is, ¬†“In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you’ll be on your way to having a whole new body.’‘ Do you have any questions or comments about Pilates? Get in touch!

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