The Pilates Method has been around since the early 1920’s. A visionary in the field of fitness and rehabilitation, Joseph Pilates always felt that he was fifty years ahead of his time. Even into the mid 1990’s very few people had heard of Pilates. In fact, there was not a book in print. Today, Pilates is one of the hottest workouts on the planet. Studios and health clubs are making Pilates training more readily available. There are entire sections at the bookstore, lots of workout videos, infomercials/equipment sales, Pilates products seem to be everywhere. With the increased publicity and availability of Pilates training, people are starting to catch on to the amazing benefits of this mind-body system of movement for health.
Joseph Pilates authored two books; Your Health in 1934, and Return To Life in 1945. Not only did Mr. Pilates have strong philosophies for teaching his clients a better, more efficient system of movement, but felt that the importance of maintaining physical, mental, and spiritual health is vital to enjoying a good quality of life. “To achieve the highest accomplishments within the scope of our capabilities in all walks of life we must constantly strive to acquire strong, healthy bodies and develop our minds to the limit of our ability.”
The problems that Joseph Pilates identified in the early 1900’s are still prevalent in society today. One has to wonder, with our computer-centered lifestyle, if things might be getting worse instead of better. “In childhood, with rare exceptions, we all enjoy the benefits of natural and normal physical development. However, as we mature, we find ourselves living in bodies not always complimentary to our ego. Our bodies are slumped, our shoulders are stooped, our eyes are hollow, our muscles are flabby and our vitality extremely lowered, if not vanished. This is but the natural result of not having uniformly developed all the muscles of our spine, trunk, arms, and legs in the course of pursuing our daily labors and office activities.” Joseph Pilates made these observations in 1945!
Fitness Defined from a Pilates Perspective
“…Physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.” Pilates invented equipment to facilitate understanding of proper body mechanics and muscle use. He believed that if everyone practiced his Mat exercises a minimum of 4 times per week, good health could be maintained. An ideal Pilates workout utilizes both the equipment and Mat exercises. There are over 500 exercises in the Pilates system. Each exercise can be broken down and modified to create additional levels of learning appropriate to each individual. Contrology is the word that Pilates used to describe his exercise system. All Pilates exercises help to, “develop the body uniformly, correct wrong postures, restore physical vitality, invigorate the mind, and elevate the spirit.”
Joseph Pilates developed his exercise system based on both Eastern and Western Philosophies. Done well the exercises always become more difficult. With proper execution it is not necessary to do lots of repetitions. In fact, if you are too tired to do things correctly – your chance of injury increases. If the last repetition is the most correct, our bodies are left with good muscle memory. This process helps to retrain the body replacing old bad habits with better, more efficient movement patterns. Weaker muscles are strengthened, so that the body becomes as well-balanced as possible. By incorporating these new habits into the activities of daily living, including other sport activities, you can reinforce and strengthen correct muscle use for improved health.
Taking care of our mental and physical well-being should be our number one priority. The quality of our life depends on good health. Using the exercises and techniques developed by Joseph Pilates can be a valuable asset in maintaining a strong and healthy body.