What is Pilates?


Joseph Humbertus Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. He was very sick as a child and suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Determined to fight these illnesses and get physically fit he studied yoga, meditation, and exercise routines of the ancient Greeks and Romans. He developed into a strong healthy man and excelled at gymnastics, skiing and diving.

In 1912 he moved to England where he worked as a boxer, circus performer and trained detectives in self defence. When WW1 broke out he was interned as a Prisoner of War (POW) and moved to the Isle of Man.

It was in The Isle of Man working as an orderly in a Hospital that he developed his exercise method ‘Pilates’. It became evident that those patient’s practicing Joe’s exercises improved faster. He progressed these exercises by using old hospital bed springs to add some resistance. It was Joe’s Pilates that is said to have prevented he and his fellow prisoners from getting the influenza that killed thousands of prisoners.

After the WW1 Joe returned to Germany and introduced Pilates into the dance world. His reputation grew quickly. He moved to America, where he met his wife and they set up ‘The Pilates Studio’ In New York. He died in 1967 and one of his students Ron Fletcher carried on The Pilates name and opened a studio in Los Angeles in 1970, where he attracted many Hollywood Stars.

Since 1970 The Pilates legacy has continued. The original 34 exercises that Joe devised have been adapted by various different Pilates Groups, but the method is essentially the same.

Pilates is a series of movements that are focussed around a central core of stability, mainly the lumbo-pelvic region, providing a stable base for the rest of your joints to work from. Pilates helps to restore muscle balance to ensure effective and efficient quality movement.

In very broad terms, you have 2 types of muscles in your body, ones that move joints and ones that stabilise joints. If your stability muscles aren’t working properly then the movement muscles tighten up and shorten to try to regain some control, this can cause restricted movement, altered movement patterns and pain, and therefore lead to overuse injuries, such as hamstring strains and hip flexor tendonopathies or persistent back pain.

There are a number of reasons why your muscle balance can become distorted; repetitive movements, poor posture, inactivity and injury are just a few. We are not designed to sit at a desk/ in a car all day or cross footballs to the left/right repetitively.

Pilates also focuses on entering the mind and breathing control, which helps with breathing and relaxation.

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