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What is Pilates?

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

In a nutshell Rael Isacowitz and Karen Clippinger (Pilates Anatomy) explain this perfectly.

"Pilates is not just exercise. Pilates is not just a random choice of particular movements. Pilates is a system of physical and mental conditioning that can enhance your physical strength, flexibility and coordination as well as reduce stress, improve mental focus, and foster an improved sense of well-being. Pilates can be for anyone and everyone"

A lot of people are nervous of Pilates. They think it's for the rich and famous, not for them. They think that they have to know what they are doing before they do a class (everyone looks so experienced!!) and it puts them off stepping through the door. They think it's tricky and complicated; you have to know what all the terms mean, what IS neutral spine anyway!? They think they have to be super flexible or super strong. They think it's just like's not!

Well I'm here to dispel a few myths surrounding this wonderful form of exercise. And that's what it is, just a different type of exercise. You don't have to be scared...honest! And the great thing about it, is that Pilates is for everyone, not just for women, not just for old people, it's not just for people with injuries and certainly not just for Jennifer Anniston!

"I’m a Pilates person. It’s great. I had a hip problem. I had a chronic back, a pinched nerve and a hip problem and it’s completely solved all of it. I love it. It makes me feel like I’m taller.”

~Jennifer Anniston

A little Bit of History. Not too much, I promise!

A lot of people believe that Pilates started in the 90's, when they saw a surge of famous people taking it up, telling everyone Pilates was how they achieved their slim, toned bodies.

Well the truth is that Pilates actually started in the 1920's by Joseph Pilates, a German born gymnast, wrestler and trainer.

Pilates came to believe that the "modern" life-style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. He ultimately devised a series of exercises and training techniques, and engineered all the equipment, specifications, and tuning required to teach his methods properly.

Contrology (the original name of Pilates) related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles, focusing attention on core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine, and strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles (Wikipedia)

Some of the first people treated by Pilates were soldiers returning from the First World War in England. He also trained dancers (once he had moved to the States) such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine, helping them to strengthen their bodies and heal their aches, pains and injuries. Around 1925, Pilates immigrated to the United States. On the ship to America, he met his future wife Clara. The couple founded a studio in New York City and directly taught and supervised their students well into the 1960s. Once it became known that ballerinas were attending the Pilates gym on 8th Avenue, society women followed.

Joseph Pilates created 34 original exercises that we still use today, but have adapted over the years to make them suitable for the 21st century.

He created an exercise programme that is fantastic for functional fitness, it was designed to improve the quality of our everyday lives, it's also used as a form of rehabilitation and is ideal for cross training with other sports.

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