What is Pilates?
"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. It is the mind itself which shapes the body."
Joseph H. Pilates
The Pilates method of body conditioning is a unique system of stretching and strengthening exercises developed over ninety years ago by Joseph H. Pilates. It strengthens and tones muscles, improves posture, provides flexibility and balance, unites the body and mind, and creates a more streamlined shape.
At a time when the fitness industry is tripping over itself to create new, innovative trends, the Pilates method, with more than nine decades of success, stands out as a tried-and-true formula of wisdom and unwavering results. Pilates was developed to create a healthy body, a healthy mind, and a healthy life, and people are ready to head its message of balance.
Whether because of a new consciousness or an intense dissatisfaction with the results of trendy exercise programs, in the past five years there has been a tremendous surge in the mind-body focus movement. People are beginning to realize how inefficient the exercises of the 1980s really were. We may have bought into the no-pain-no-gain mentality, but ultimately that led us to spend too much of our precious spare time chained to the gym. We now realize that while exercise should be an important part of our lives, it should add to and not take away from our enjoyment of a full life. With Pilates, specifically the matwork, we can minimize the amount of time spent in a gym or in front of an exercise video, but maximize the results achieved from a full body workout, The matwork teaches us that the body is the finest and only tool necessary for achieving physical fitness.
Our old exercise regimes are failing us for another reason: they are based on isolating muscles and working each area of the body individually rather than treating the body as the integrated whole it is. The poor physical condition many of us are in today comes from the imbalance of engaging in complicated, inefficient exercises that isolate certain body parts while neglecting others. If our goal in exercising is to balance our bodies, improve circulation, reduce stress, improve endurance, look better, feel great, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that we should utilize the one method that for over nine decades has proven its ability to achieve all these things.
The Pilates philosophy focuses on training the mind and body to work together toward the goal of overall fitness. Although born in a completely different era, Joseph Pilates understood the physical and mental pressures of a busy schedule. He sought to reeducate us to work our bodies with the efficiency of performing our daily tasks in mind. Pilates believed that his method would propel people to becoming more productive both mentally and physically. For this reason the Pilates matwork is designed to fit into the physical and time constraints of the individual without diminishing its comprehensive elements.
Pilates began developing his exercise system in Germany in the early 1900s. Plagued by asthma and rickets as a child, Pilates’ Method sprang from his determination to strengthen his frail and sickly body. He called his method “The Art of Contrology,” or muscle control, to highlight his unique approach of using the mind to master the muscles. Interned during the First World War, he taught his method to other internees and successfully maintained their health through the deadly influenza epidemic of 1918. During the latter part of the war Pilates served as an orderly in a hospital on the Isle of Man, where he began working with nonambulatory patients. He attached springs to the hospital beds to support the patients’ ailing limbs while he worked with them, and he and the doctors noticed that the patients were improving faster.
These spring-based exercises became the basis for the apparatus Pilates would later design to be used in conjunction with the matwork. That is why the Pilates name is often associated with antiquated-looking machines, but the matwork is the original movement system that Joseph Pilates created and is just as effective as the work done on the machines.