Pilates, previously termed ‘Contrology’ by its founder, Joseph Pilates, is a method which combines core-conditioning with spinal alignment; strength training, especially in the deep core muscles (through the back, trunk, hips, legs and shoulder girdle) and breath awareness. Pilates’ Contrology was designed to use the mind to control the muscles, building strength in both as the student progresses with the exercises.
Pilates’ method can be done on a simple mat, using complex machines and/or using equipment such as various balls, blocks, bands and barrels. Each of the original 34 exercises can be broken down or built up to make it accessible to anyone; today, there are also many more functional exercises included in classes for warming up, cooling down, adapting and in my opinion, helping to have fun with achieving physical and mental fitness!
Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1883 or 1880 (there are a couple of different opinions about his birth, life and death), he spent his life seeming to be dedicated to attaining and assisting others with their own optimal physical health.
From my experience, the Pilates’ method today is one of the best methods for building strength in the body. It brings optimum use and balance to the muscles, in a safe and controlled way; and due to its focus on precision and control, rather than maximum peripheral exertion it seems to work the body from the inside out.
There are 6 fundamental principles of the Pilates method which need to be adhered to in each exercise:
- Breathing, each exercise is led by its own breathing pattern to make optimum use of the core muscles.
- Concentration, focusing the mind on which muscles are engaged for flexing or stretching; as well as having awareness about your current bodily movement and position (proprioception).
- Control, is needed so the right muscles are engaged at the right time and in the right way to help achieve the correct exercise and it’s alignment; whilst being mindful to not over-exert and loosing form.
- Core-Centring, the core region is the foundation from which all other movements move out from, essential in controlling and stabilising other parts of the body.
- Precision, care and attention must be given to joint and limb alignment during static postures as well as during movement.
- Flow, the exercises are performed with grace and fluidly, flowing out from the core and working at lesser speeds to help enforce the precision.
And if you’ve been to a couple of classes you’ll see every teacher is wonderfully different, as is every student. To me, Pilates is one of the most accessible things we can do physically, a lot of physios also use it when assisting their patient’s rehabilitation too!