What is Pilates ? We have all properly heard of it, lots of people attend classes regularly, it has a great repetition for improving the symptoms of back pain & other injuries, and it’s often recommended by many other health care professionals and GP’s, but it seems there is a variety of opinions of what is pilates.
The usual perception of Pilates is “strengthen the core and a bit of stretching.” While the “core” muscles play in important role in Pilates as does mobility (as opposed to stretching) there is a little bit more to it than that.
History of pilates
To understand what Pilates is, I’ll give you a very brief history of it. Back in the 1880’s Joseph Pilates had a very sick childhood. Determined to overcome these issued he mastered activities such as bodybuilding, gymnastics & diving along with martial arts. While training the police force in self-defense, he was placed in prison (for safety) during the First World War. While training inmates, he studied yoga and the movement of animals. This is where he created his corrective exercise system known as “Contrology.”
He believed poor health was down to “modern life,” bad posture & inefficient breathing. He taught this method to fellow inmates and during 1918 flu pandemic not one of the prisoners who was taught this method of exercise became victim to the pandemic. There is a lot more to the history, but this should give you a small idea.
In my opinion, in Pilates, the exercises themselves are not the most important thing, and I believe they should vary (when possible) from person to person depending on the needs and requirements of the individual, as we are all going to have different needs and mechanical setups. This is why I believe Pilates is most effective in small groups (max of 8), any bigger and it can turn to a “one exercise fits all” culture. Exercises with Yoga and pilates
It is the execution of each task; the technique’s which are going to give the main benefit to all participants. This is where the Pilates principles come in. From my experience exercises performed without the principles have little or no effect; whereas exercises carried out with the principles are a lot more rewarding and beneficial. In my view the principles are a real skill and do take a lot of practice to master, however when done correctly with the exercises is where I see the most benefits come from. In my opinion, it’s better to do an exercise once correctly with all principles than it is done 20 times without guideline.
Here is a list of principles (or I call them foundations) that I believe to be key. Most of these are originals ones:
Alignment/Posture – Good posture is the state of muscle and skeletal balance which protects the structures of the body from injury. In short, if we aren’t in “good” posture we risk overworking some parts and under working others.
Breathing – Good diaphragmatic breathing promotes stability as it is a muscle of the “inner abdominal unit.” In my opinion, probably the hardest one to master.
Connections – Having the ability to connect and recruit all muscles of the “inner abdominal unit” to provide stability from the inside.
Precision – Getting the technique of each move correct to make each move efficient and beneficial.
Concentration & Control – The ability to be able to fully concentrate on each move to ensure the correct foundations are being carried out and the exercise is being carried out effectively to benefit you.
Integrated isolation – The ability to be able to isolate muscles but at the same time group them with other muscles to make a “chain” or a “sling” of muscles.
There are a few more you may have experienced in other classes or through other reading, but in my opinion, these are the key ones to adhere to.