Pilates are mind body exercises which originated with Joseph Pilates who developed the program to help him recover from a childhood of rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. His studies combine the philosophies of the Eastern and Western parts of the world. Originally known as Contrology, the name was changed to Pilates when he immigrated to the US and the program was embraced whole heartedly by the dance community.
The methods used in Pilates are very similar to the dance community and stress the development of muscle strength through control of the body by the mind. The principles include control of breath, concentration, center, control, precision and flow.
Breathing is essential to the movement and experience of Pilates. The use of proper breathing methods will improve the oxygenation of the muscles used, reduce stress and improve flexibility. It will also improve the work of your abdominal muscles and help develop a strong core.
The exercises also stress something practitioners call flow, but which is essential ultimate control over the muscle movements. There are no jerky movements during the exercises, which gives them a dance like quality. This fluidity of movement requires greater control and strength of muscles than a more jerky transition.
Pilates has been developed over the years to include over 500 different exercises that use five different pieces of equipment to help develop balance. Each exercise is usually performed with a few repetitions but the movements emphasize the use of precise control and form.
The major focus of Pilates is the strengthening of the core muscles or abdomen, gluteals (buttocks) and lower back. The performance of these exercises will also help the muscles to work harmoniously, improving your balance and strength simultaneously. The classes or DVDs will also stress body awareness of the muscle function and control to help you experience a new level of mind – body connection.
Individuals who practice Pilates will also experience greater flexibility through use of the movements and body awareness. Several studies have shown that individuals who have greater flexibility will also burn greater number of calories, have greater balance and experience a reduced risk of injury during athletic performance or during daily living activities.
University of Florida:History
Excel Pilates:History of Pilates
Human Kinetics: Understand the Principles of Pilates
BodyLinesPilates: The Six Principles of Pilates
AARP: 10 Things You Should Know About Pilates
NHS Choices: A Guide to PIlates
Shape: 7 Things You Didn’t know about Pilates