Apr. 01 2011

Pilates is a form of physical fitness that has had a resurgence over the past decade. Joseph Pilates of Germany originally developed Pilates in the early 20th century. Described as ‘contrology’, Pilates is similar to corrective exercise or medical gymnastics where the mind controls muscle movement. Pilates is a great form of exercise for a wide range of people. That is why Pilates has quickly become one of the most popular exercise programs in the country.

The foundation of Pilates is based on core strength. Every movement originates from the core and progresses out through the extremities. The core is made up of deep internal muscles of the abdomen and back. Due to the American diet and lifestyle, most people don’t have strong core muscles, which can be one cause of low back pain. When the core muscles are strong, they support the spine and are able to control superficial muscles to assist in movement. The objective of Pilates is to develop core strength, flexibility and awareness in order to support efficient and graceful movement in everyday life. Pilates makes people stronger, longer, leaner and increases the ability to function. Every Pilates exercise stretches, strengthens and relaxes the body to enhance natural alignment.

Joseph Pilates developed traditional Pilates using a wide range of apparatuses to guide and train the body. The original philosophy seeks to develop controlled movements that start from the core. This increases strength, flexibility and control of the body. By providing equipment throughout each exercise, additional resistance builds strength. Traditional apparatus includes the Reformer, Cadillac, high chair, Wunda chair, baby chair, ladder barrel, spine corrector and small barrel. Authentic Pilates encompasses six principles, which are maintained within modern day Pilates as well. These six principles describe how Pilates should be completed and why it should be done to these standards. The six principles are concentration, control, center, flow, precision and breathing.

Pilates demands an intense focus throughout each exercise. The way an exercise is done is more important than the exercise itself. Developing muscle control, improves strength and the minds ability to control body movement. The core is the center of the body. Every movement should originate from the core and flow outward to the limbs. As you develop body control each movement should flow with appropriate transition. Precision allows the exercises to flow into each other. It is more important in Pilates to execute one precise and perfect movement than to do 20 sloppy incorrect movements. Improper movements don’t benefit the body and lose their value. By concentrating on precision of movements, they will become second nature, which will carry over into everyday activities. Much like yoga, Pilates requires a focus on breathing. Breathing increases circulation, which expels toxins and increases the intake of oxygen. Deep breathing is cleansing and invigorating. Pilates requires a full inhalation and a complete exhalation. It is referred to as posterior lateral breathing, to expand the rib cage and engage core muscles without changing or impeding movement.

The Pilates principles define how Pilates exercise is more about quality rather than quantity. In contemporary Pilates all exercises have modifications to adapt for all levels of fitness to maintain safety or increase challenge. Although modern Pilates breaks from tradition; authentic Pilates does the same exercise in the same order and contemporary Pilates breaks it down into parts and exercises may vary depending upon the day, instructor or clients. Modern Pilates also has added additional equipment such as small weighted balls, foam rollers, large exercise balls, rotating disks, and resistance bands. These are more modern exercise equipment, which provide the same type of resistance training that the classic Pilates apparatus provided. With all of that, contemporary Pilates still holds the basic values and principles as classic Pilates. Whichever style you choose, you will still benefit from developing strength, flexibility, body awareness and muscle control.

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