What is Pilates

Joseph Hubertus Pilates

Born in Germany in 1880, Joseph H. Pilates was a sickly child, suffering from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. To overcome his ailments, he practiced gymnastics, diving, skiing and body building.

Joseph traveled to England in 1912 and was interned on the Isle of man during WW1 with other German nationals. This is where he began to practice his exercise method to help rehabilitate the sick and injured. It is a credit to him that no one in this camp succumbed to the influenza epidemic during this time.

Joseph was invited to train the German army on his return to Germany after the war. He decided to leave for America instead, and on the journey over, met Clara, who later became his wife. Joseph and Clara moved to New York, where they setup their Pilates Studio in 1926. Many people frequented the studio, including dancers, gymnasts, circus performers and the elite of society. Although it was the dance community that embraced his exercise method so openly. Understanding the impact that it had on their bodies.

Pilates developed over 600 exercises on the various equipment that he invented. These machines are still used today, with little changes. The machines use springs and pulleys to create resistance, stretching the body, while maintaining and encouraging a stable and aligned frame.

The Pilates Method is a set of principles and movements targeted at the body’s area of core strength- the abdomen and back. Partly inspired by yoga it is different in one key respect. Yoga is made up of a series of static postures, while Pilates is based on setting a posture and then challenging the stability of the body by moving through a range of repetitive movements. It is a movement technique that requires learning fundamentals to build on.

Over time with practise participants will learn a concentrated breathing awareness. Pilates breathing helps participants connect to and strengthen their deep abdominal muscles, developing a strong “centre”. Pilates focuses on slow controlled movements, ‘cat like’ as Joe (pictured left) would say, stretching tight overworked muscles and strengthening the smaller muscle groups that stabilise the body and limbs. The aim is to achieve a balanced body with correct body movements patterns, and postural awareness. Concentration of mind helps to develop a deeper understanding of your own body and relieve stress, all in all the intelligent way to exercise! 


Top 10 Interesting Facts About Pilates

Although Pilates as a form of exercise was developed in the early 20th century, it is gaining momentum in the recent years. Its popularity has increased many folds and we’ve seen the rise of many contemporary Pilate instructors. Let’s bust some myths and get to know the real ‘Pilates’. Let’s experience it the way it was meant to be. Here are 10 facts you will love to know about Pilates.

1. Pilates is a physical fitness system –

It is not a derivative of yoga

We are tired of such misleading advertisements on the internet about Pilates. If you didn’t know this already, let us tell you that Pilates is not a form of yoga. It is a system by itself developed by Joseph Pilates who was a physicist. He infused his belief that both mental and physical health is interrelated in Pilates. Did you know that only a very few were allowed to practice this form of exercise, that too confined in specialized studios?

2. Pilates is incomplete without method and apparatus

Pilates is all about achieving the right method in your exercise. Now you all must know that Pilates and mats go hand in hand. But did you also know that Pilates cannot be complete without apparatus? Traditionally there was a lot of use of chairs and tables. In the contemporary version of Pilates we’ve seen a lot of use of rollers, exercise balls, rotating disks and resistance bands. But mind you– a mat is must and it is your best friend while practicing Pilates.

3. Pilates requires maximum concentration

And you thought Pilates was all about moving the limbs around in different motion? Pilates is all about precise movements and it demands a lot of concentration. As funny as it sounds, Pilates is based on the belief that ‘the way exercises are done is more important than the exercises themselves’.

4. ‘Contrology’ is Pilates’ second name

When Joseph Pilates was working on developing Pilates as a system of physical fitness, he also termed it ‘Contrology’. Can you think of a reason why? It’s not rocket science. He believed that whoever is practicing Pilates should be in constant control of each and every movement. What’s the benefit? Experts say that it results in enhanced muscular control of the back, limbs and abdominal muscles.

5. Breathing is the key

We are not talking about just ‘breathing’. Pilates involves slow movement and a series of exercises along with attention to proper breathing techniques. If you didn’t know, a lot of stress is laid on exhaling by wriggling out all the air from your lungs, while practicing Pilates. It is said to be much like ‘squeezing out a wet towel’. Any form of Pilates will not be complete without conscious breathing in and breathing out.

6. Mat-based Pilates and Equipment based Pilates

Okay, here is the truth– there are basically two ways in which Pilates can be practised. Mat based Pilates involve a series of exercises done on the floor. The key here is to use the combination of gravity and your body weight to provide resistance to the muscles. Equipment based Pilates is exercise that incorporates the use of various equipments and weights for muscle training.

7. Quality is more important than quantity

If you are someone who likes to do everything the right way, Pilates is definitely for you. Right from the posture, the breathing, the movement, the number of repetitions, and the amount of energy that is spent– everything needs to be done in a precise manner. As you might know, there are thousands of books and videotapes out there in the market. We’d suggest that you avoid going down that path and learn from a qualified teacher or physiotherapist.

8. Be cautious– before and while practicing Pilates

Very few people are aware of this– the term ‘Pilates’ is generic and free for unrestricted use. Did you know that this means anyone can offer advice on Pilates to the society, whether trained or untrained? That’s massive and can be dangerous! Besides the general precautions that you’d take before doing any exercise, we suggest that if you are pregnant, or over 40, overweight or have any pre-existing medical condition, be very cautious and careful. Take advice from qualified medical professionals before starting Pilates because Pilates is very challenging – mentally and physically.

9. Pilates caters to everyone

There is a common misconception that Pilates is only for women. If even you think so, get with the times! Pilates was invented by a man and Pilates is for everyone and caters to the needs of beginners, and experts.

10. Pilates will challenge your body

We think this is the best advantage of practicing Pilates. Are you used to putting your mind through such extreme control, concentration, and focus? Top that with a strenuous physical workout. You have a deadly combination of mind and matter working towards a goal. Super challenging!

From improved flexibility to better posture, from enhanced muscular strength to stabilization of the spine and from rehabilitation to prevention of injuries– Pilates helps one and all. Believe us, even if you are the super woman who is always running around town to juggle work, family and the kids, Pilates is possible. 2-3 sittings a week is all it takes. Know these facts and use Pilates to stay healthy and achieve that super sexy figure.