I love teaching Pilates! And I love doing Pilates! It is one of my favorite forms of exercise, but I feel like many people just don't know what it is. I think the best way to discover Pilates is to work with an instructor and really feel what it does for your body. Since I can't get my hands on each and everyone of you, I thought I would write a blog about Pilates in hopes I would inspire a few more people to try it.
I've been reading Ellie Herman's Pilates Wunda Chair book, and in it, she gives a brief history that I will share. She begins by describing the man for whom Pilates is named after. Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. His health was not always the best and he suffered from asthma. He overcame his health problems and became an active athlete enjoying activities such as skiing, diving, gymnastics, yoga and pugilism. He developed a series of exercises designed to strengthen the core performed on a mat. He went on to invent pieces of equipment to further enhance the exercise series. Legend has it that he was a nurse stationed in an English internment camp during WWI. In a light bulb moment, he decided to rig springs above hospital beds to help rehabilitate patients while lying on their backs. This set up is very similar to what we use today called the Cadillac.
Later in 1923, he settled in New York City, where he started training and rehabilitating professional dancers including George Balanchine and Martha Graham. He wrote a book called Return to Life in which he outlines how to improve overall health including the mat Pilates exercises he designed earlier. He called his work "Contrology", but it has been coined Pilates after the man himself. He went on to invent over 20 pieces of equipment designed to enhance the exercises.
So, what is Pilates? I like the way Ellie defines it: "Pilates exercises as a whole develop strong abdominal, back, gluteal, and deep postrual muscles to support the skeletal system and act as what Pilates called the "Powerhouse" of the body." She goes on to say that Pilates will strengthen your core, lengthen the spine, increase body awareness, build muscle tone and increase flexibility. Pilates can be used to rehabilitate the back, knee, hip, shoulder and help with repetitve stress injuries. Finally, Pilates is designed to treat the body as a whole, to correct imbalances and weaknesses to prevent injury and bring balance to the body.
Hopefully, I didn't lose you with the history and you have a better understanding of what Pilates is and what it can do for your body. If you get the chance to try Pilates, you will really see how wonderful it is!