WHAT IS PILATES?
Born in in Mönchengladbach, Germany in 1883, Joseph Hubertus Pilates was a physical trainer who devised the Pilates method of physical fitness.
The origins of Joseph Pilates’ regimented workout program began when he was held in an internment camp in England during WWI. It was here that he developed his methods of physical training.
Pilates was a sickly child and is reported to have had asthma and rickets (a condition that affects bone development in children). Not surprisingly his goal was to work on his body to improve his strength and overall health. By adulthood Pilates had achieved his goal and was an avid skier, boxer, gymnast and diver.
In 1912, he moved to England to work as a self-defence instructor at Scotland Yard. But when WWI erupted, Pilates, as a German national, was sent to an internment camp. It was here, cooped up with other detainees that Pilates began to refine his techniques and train other men, even those that were injured. He encouraged his fellow internees to exercise as it would improve their condition.
He was also housed with German soldiers that had been injured during the war, many bedridden. This led Joseph to invent an apparatus attaching springs to the patients’ hospital beds enabling them to perform resistance exercises.
After the war ended, Joseph Pilates returned to Germany. There, his exercise program became popular in the dance community, specifically with Rudolf van Laban. He spent his time in Germany training dancers before deciding to leave for the United States.
In 1925, he immigrated to the US via ship where he met his wife Clara. When they arrived in New York City they opened their first studio close to the New York City Ballet training dancers and assisting injured dancers in their rehabilitation.
Some of the most famous dancers in the world were trained by Joseph including George Balanchine founder of the New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet. Martha Graham, founder of the Graham technique also sent her dancers to attend classes at Pilates’ studio.
Not only did dancers participate in the classes but many of them also went on to open their own fitness studios and teach Pilates themselves. These dancers included Carola Trier, Romana Kryzanowska, Ron Fletcher, and Eve Gentry.
Carola Trier was the first person other than Joseph to open a Pilates studio.
Those that are considered the first generation of Pilates teachers have become known today as the Pilates Elders who spread Pilates all over the world for the benefit of everyone who partakes.
What is Pilates?
It is a method of exercise that feels refreshingly joyful and is great for your body.
the millions and millions who have never learned to master the art of correct breathing”. He emphasized that students of his method should use very full deep breaths to cleanse the bloodstream and expel stale air from the depths of the lungs and replenish the body with fresh air to energize and revitalize our systems.
Centring – represents the act of drawing your own mental and physical focus during each exercise to the core or centre of your body.
Concentration – paying close attention to the specifics and details of every Pilates exercise.
Control – represents the concept that it is your mind that directs and manages each separate muscular movement.
Flow – exercises should be done in a flowing manner with the goals of fluidity, elegance and grace. The energy one exerts during each exercise should connect all body parts smoothly and thereby flow evenly through your body.
Precision – we should maintain a conscious awareness of precision during each movement. Understanding placement, alignment and trajectory for each moving part of the body.
Why you should practise Pilates
Pilates addresses all bodily systems. Our bodies are amazing and it is a great feeling when you look after the individual work of art in which we each reside.
When you practise Pilates, you understand more about all bodily systems.Traditional movement seems to focus on the musculo-skeletal system of the body – the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and bursae. The musculo-skeletal system provides protection for the body’s major organs and enables movement of the body.
There are approximately 206 bones which provide structural support to the body, store calcium and produce red and white blood cells. Our joints facilitate movement, our ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect bones to bones, tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect our muscles to our bones. We have approximately 600 muscles consisting of our skeletal muscles that move our bones, our involuntary muscles that keep us alive such as heart, diaphragm and the muscles around some of our blood vessels and intestines as well as the bursae which are small fluid filled sacs that act like a cushion between adjacent moving body parts. There are approximately 160 bursae in our bodies. Truly amazing.
The Fascial System
Pilates can help address many imbalances and dysfunction in all systems of our body. For example, if you present in class with tight glute muscles we may ask you to complete some myofascial release work, perhaps using spikey balls or the foam roller.
The fascial system of the body is the fabric that holds us together. It is the connective tissue network that encases all our muscles and the individual fibres, our bones, organs, blood vessels and nerves.
Fascia is everywhere – all the different names we give to elements within it – this tendon, that ligament, this nerve, that blood vessel, this organ etc – can tend to hide the fact that it is all one connected system. For example, if we injure our Achilles tendon we tend to treat just that part instead of seeing the part that failed within the context of the whole system. Pilates, addresses the whole system.
When you practise Pilates you connect your breathing with your movements. So It not only effects the muscles and bones, ligaments, tendons, bursae and fascia but also respiration – it is a beautiful opportunity to allow your breath to dictate when you move rather than your brain deciding to move or your teacher or a musical beat telling you when to move.
The respiratory system consists of organs and structures that allow us to breathe by taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. The first principal of Pilates – breathing – addresses our respiratory system. When we breathe well we provide beautiful oxygen to all the cells in our body and expel waste. Our spine, ribs, sternum, clavicle and scapulae move and this can improve our posture. We create space for all our organs that reside in the thoracic space and we can change our emotional state. Breathing helps us calm down, it changes our stress levels and affects the endocrine system, the nervous system and the musculo-skeletal systems of our body. It is the perfect example of how all our bodily systems are connected and how Pilates greatly benefits us.
This is the major controlling, regulatory and communicating system in the body. It is the centre of all mental activity including thought, learning and memory. Together with the endocrine (hormone regulation) system, the nervous system is responsible for regulating and maintaining homeostasis (balance – correct functioning). Through its receptors, the nervous system keeps us in touch with our environment both external and internal.
Like other systems in the body, the nervous system is composed of organs – principally the brain and spinal cord. These, in turn, consist of various tissues, including nerves, blood and connective tissue. Together these carry out the complex activities of the nervous system.
When you practise Pilates, you concentrate on doing the exercises correctly, moving with flow and precision. This stimulates the central nervous system as we ask our brain to feel our muscles tighten or our bones lengthen. To know where we are in space rather than simply completing repetitions a particular exercise.
The Benefits of Pilates
Pilates is not something to simply tick off our to-do list. It is a beautiful opportunity to spend time with yourself and a great way to become present. When you practise Pilates you learn how to manage yourself. You learn how to handle your body and what to do with it. You learn how to partner with, correct and heal your own body. Pilates is an education about you and your body. You are never done with learning about or improving your body. Your body can be your greatest teacher. Pilates can be the pathway that helps you find your body again. You think your way into your body.
As I have experienced the Pilates Method – when I teach, practise and observe it – I feel a spiritual uplift and lightness. It presents me a conscious way of being in my body with everything I do – all the time. It makes me feel proud of my body and makes me so grateful for my life and my health.
Pilates, when taught by a skilled and experienced teacher, (eg; someone who has a tertiary level qualification in Pilates) can be a wonderful way to rehabilitate from injury. It can teach you how to move your body efficiently, to feel your muscles and release them, to let go of tension and enjoy freedom of movement.
Pilates is particularly helpful for chronic symptoms. It is packed with exercises for chronic joint problems and chronic muscular tension patterns. It is rehabilitative for all states of injury from broken bones to breathing incapacity to brain damage.
Pilates works because you do the work. It is done by an active person – you! It is an internal awareness that links your mind to your body, central nervous, musculo-skeletal system and sensory motor system. Your brain directs your body to move then your brain receives the information resulting from your movement.
We partner better with Pilates the more we mature. We grow deeper into ourselves. We are more when we age, not less. To live, is to age. Celebrate your birthdays. I feel the time has come for us all to rise and not wait for the circumstances to be right before we start looking after ourselves. Our personal revolution is now.
If you would like any more information or think Pilates will benefit you, please get in touch with us at Emerald Pilates.