Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates.
Joseph Pilates was living in England, working as a circus performer and boxer, when he was placed in forced internment in England at the outbreak of WWI. While in the internment camp, he began to develop the floor exercises that evolved into what we now know as the Pilates mat work.
As time went by, Joseph Pilates began to work with rehabilitating detainees who were suffering from diseases and injuries. It was invention born of necessity that inspired him to utilize items that were available to him, like bed springs and beer keg rings, to create resistance exercise equipment for his patients. These were the unlikely beginnings of the equipment we use today, like the reformer and the magic circle.
Joseph Pilates developed his work from a strong personal experience in fitness. Unhealthy as a child, Joseph Pilates studied many kinds of self-improvement systems. He drew from Eastern practices and Zen Buddhism, and was inspired by the ancient Greek ideal of man perfected in development of body, mind and spirit. On his way to developing the Pilates Method, Joseph Pilates studied anatomy and developed himself as a body builder, a wrestler, gymnast, boxer, skier and diver.
After WWI, Joseph Pilates briefly returned to Germany where his reputation as a physical trainer/healer preceded him. In Germany, he worked briefly for the Hamburg Military Police in self-defense and physical training. In 1925, he was asked to train the German army. Instead, he packed his bags and took a boat to New York City. On the boat to America, Joseph met Clara, a nurse, who would become his wife. He went on to establish his studio in New York and Clara worked with him as he evolved the Pilates method of exercise, invented the Pilates exercise equipment, and of course, trained students.
Joseph Pilates taught in New York from 1926 to 1966. During that time, he trained a number of students who not only applied his work to their own lives but became teachers of the Pilates method themselves. This first generation of teachers who trained directly with Joseph Pilates is often referred to as the Pilates Elders. Some committed themselves to passing along Joseph Pilates work exactly as he taught it. This approach is called "classical style" Pilates. Other students went on to integrate what they learned with their own research in anatomy and exercise sciences.
Joseph Pilates' New York studio put him in close proximity to a number of dance studios, which led to his "discovery" by the dance community. Many dancers and well-known persons of New York depended on Pilates method training for the strength and grace it developed in the practitioner, as well as for its rehabilitative effects. Until exercise science caught up with the Pilates exercise principles in the 1980s, and the surge of interest in Pilates that we have today got underway, it was chiefly dancers and elite athletes who kept Joseph Pilates' work alive.
Joseph Pilates passed away in 1967. He had maintained a fit physique throughout his life, and many photos show that he was in remarkable physical condition in his older years. He is also said to have had a flamboyant personality. He smoked cigars, liked to party, and wore his exercise briefs wherever he wanted (even on the streets of New York). It is said that he was an intimidating, though deeply committed, instructor. Clara Pilates continued to teach and run the studio for another 10 years after Joseph Pilates death. Today, Joseph Pilates legacy is carried on by the Pilates Elders, and by a large group of contemporary teachers.
Joseph Pilates called his work, contrology. He defined Contrology as "the comprehensive integration of body mind and spirit."
Below you will find inspiring quotes from Joseph Pilates' book, Return to Life Through Contrology:
"Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit. Through Contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercises you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities."
"Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure."
"A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion."
Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit."
"Contrology is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily "ad-nausem"."
"The art of contrology proves that the only real guide to your true age lies not in years or how you THINK you feel but as you ACTUALLY are as infallibly indicated by the degree of natural and normal flexibility enjoyed by your spine throughout life."
Pilates is one of the most popular exercise systems now!
It seems like everyone is either doing Pilates, or interested in starting a Pilates exercise program. Indeed, one of the best things about the Pilates method is that it works so well for a wide range of people. Athletes and dancers love it, as do seniors, women rebounding from pregnancy, and people who at various stages of physical rehabilitation.
The top benefits doing of Pilates exercise that people report are that they become stronger, longer, leaner, and more able to do anything with grace and ease.
The pilates mat program follows a set sequence, with exercises following on from one another in a natural progression, just as Joseph Pilates designed them. Beginners start with basic exercises and build up to include additional exercises and more advanced positioning.
Here is a few tips wchich will help you to get the most out of your pilates workout:
- Stay focused. Pilates is designed to combine your breathing rhythm with your body movements. Qualified instructors teach ways to keep your breathing working in conjunction with the exercises. You will also be taught to concentrate on your muscles and what you are doing. The goal of pilates is to unite your mind and body, which relieves stress and anxiety.
- Be comfortable. Wear comfortable clothes (as you would for yoga — shorts or tights and a T-shirt or tank top are good choices), and keep in mind that pilates is usually done without shoes. If you start feeling uncomfortable, strained, or experience pain, you should stop.
- Let it flow. When you perform your exercises, avoid quick, jerky movements. Every movement should be slow, but still strong and flexible. Joseph Pilates worked with dancers and designed his movements to flow like a dance.
Don't leave out the heart. The nice thing about pilates is you don't have to break a sweat if you don't want to — but you can also work the exercises quickly (bearing in mind fluidity, of course!) to get your heart rate going. Or, because pilates is primarily about strength and flexibility, pair your pilates workout with a form of aerobic exercise like swimming or brisk walking.