What Is Pilates?
Pilates is a uniquely precise and intelligent approach to exercise and body-conditioning, which gives you a leaner, suppler, more toned body and a calmer, more relaxed mind.
It takes its name from Joseph Pilates, a German-born emigré to Britain and then America, who devised it in the early part of the last century.
Long popular among dancers, gymnasts and others who knew of it, Pilates has now been discovered by a wider public - from those who want a stronger back or flatter stomach to those with specific injuries or medical problems that Pilates can help; or else, simply those who want to get fit or de-stress.
Pilates is a gentle, non-aerobic exercise method, which lengthens and strengthens the muscles, and improves posture, without stressing the joints or the heart. Indeed, physiotherapists, osteopaths and doctors now recommend Pilates as one of the safest forms of exercise available.
You can learn Pilates either in group sessions, known as mat-classes, or in a dedicated studio - like Pilates Central - with expert teachers and specialised, spring-resistance equipment, designed to tone and strengthen your muscles, while placing minimum strain on the joints.
Wherever you learn Pilates, you should make sure that your teacher is properly qualified, since Pilates taught by someone without the right training can do you more harm than good. Yet, many exercise teachers in gyms and elsewhere now include Pilates exercises in their classes, despite themselves never having had any training at all. Our instructors, meanwhile, have had the best training in the business.
What Does Pilates Do That Other Kinds Of Exercise Don't?
Pilates is more dynamic than yoga but less aggressive, sweaty and high-impact than aerobics, jogging or gym-work, which, unlike Pilates, can all place damaging strain on the joints and/or heart.
Whereas most forms of exercise build the body's stronger muscles, Pilates exercises work as much or more to strengthen the weaker ones too. The result is a properly balanced body, with better joint mobility, a firm musculature and good, natural posture.
Pilates helps you achieve such posture by strengthening the centre of the body so that it supports your lower back, helping you to stand straight and hold your upper body correctly.
Whereas many kinds of exercise aim only to raise your general fitness, our instructors are able to isolate and strengthen a specific muscle or tackle a particular problem with a rare precision.
Whereas other forms of exercise often cause injuries, our Pilates exercises not only cure injuries but are themselves so controlled and low-impact that they are extremely safe - if taught, that is, by a properly trained instructor. What's more, the awareness of your body that they develop enables you to avoid the same injuries or problems recurring in the future.
Whereas other forms of exercise promise 'no gain without pain', Pilates is a gentle, non-aerobic exercise method, which produces a healthy, toned, mobile body and calm, relaxed mind - and so proves the existence of gain without pain.
Who Can Benefit From Pilates?
Pilates is still popular with dancers, gymnasts and athletes but it is equally suitable for most men and women, from nine to 90, and beyond. In fact, some people are surprised that almost a third of our clients are male.
It is particularly suitable for...
- The middle-aged and elderly
- The desk-bound and inactive
- The pregnant and post-natal
- Those needing Pre- and post-operation strengthening
- Those referred by their doctor, physio, osteopath, chiropractor or other practitioner
- And for those who suffer...
- Back pain, back-ache and other back problems
- Scoliosis/curvature of the spine
- Poor posture and rounded shoulders
- Neck and shoulder pains or problems
- Stiffness, joint pains and muscle pains, whether caused by arthritis/ osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia or other things
- Injuries: sports injuries and others
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
History And Origins Of Pilates
Pilates takes its name from Joseph Pilates, the German-born emigré to Britain and then America, who devised it as a new approach to exercise and body-conditioning in the early decades of the last century.
Joseph Pilates was born near Dusseldorf in 1880. He was a sickly child who determined to make himself strong and healthy. He took up body-building, to the point where by his teens he was getting work as a model for anatomical drawings.
He was perhaps the first influential figure to combine Western and Eastern ideas about health and physical fitness.
He researched and practised every kind of exercise he could, ranging from classical Roman and Greek exercise regimes to body-building and gymnastics, alongside the the Eastern disciplines of yoga, tai chi, martial arts and Zen meditation.
He studied anatomy and animal movements. He sampled every kind of exercise that he could and carefully recorded the results.
In 1912, aged 32, he left Germany for this country, where he became a professional boxer, an expert skier and diver, taught self-defence to Scotland Yard detectives and found work as a circus acrobat.
On the outbreak of World War I, the British interned him as a German enemy alien. He used his time as an internee to start developing a new approach to exercise and body-conditioning - the start of what is known today as Pilates.
During his internment, he also got the chance to work as a nurse. This, in turn, gave him the chance to experiment by attaching springs to hospital beds, so that patients could start toning their muscles even while they were still bed-bound. Such were the origins of the first Pilates machines, which were shaped like a sliding bed and used springs as resistance.
Returning to Germany after World War I, Pilates worked with pioneers of movement technique such as Rudolph Laban, who created the basic system of dance notation still used today
In 1923, Pilates moved to America, where he opened his first studio in New York, along with Clara, his wife and assistant, whom he had met on the Atlantic crossing.
His new method was an instant hit, particularly among dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine. Other dancers, who found the Pilates method the best way both to recover from injuries and to prevent their recurrence, also became devotees. Gradually, a wider audience got to hear of it.
Pilates called his technique 'Controlology' - only later did it become known by his own surname. He conceived it as a mental as well as a physical conditioning in which individuals could work their bodies to their full potential.
In explaining Controlology's guiding principle, he liked to quote Schiller: 'lt is the mind itself which builds the body'.
The Pilates method did not return to Britain until 1970, when it was brought back to this country by Alan Herdman, after the latter had been asked by the London School of Contemporary Dance to visit New York and investigate the methods of Joseph Pilates. Herdman established Britain's first Pilates studio at The Place in London that year.
Testimonials from some famous devotees...
The list of celebrities who do Pilates is almost endless, from Liz Hurley, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna to Martin Amis, John Cleese and Ian McKellen. It would almost be quicker to compile a list of celebrities who don’t do Pilates.
Specific Uses and Applications
- Ageing: Pilates For Later In Life
- Arthritis, Osteoarthritis And Fibromyalgia
- Back Pain and Postural Problems
- CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)
- Neck And Shoulder Pains And Problems
- Pre And Post-Operation Strengthening
- Pregnancy: Pre- And Post-Natal
- RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)
- Scoliosis (Abnormal Curvature Of The Spine)
- Sport: Pilates And Sport
- Stiffness And Joint Pains