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​Pilates is for everyone!

Who is Pilates for and why was it created?

 

Pilates is not for a select few skinny females or for particularly bendy or strong people; it really is for everyone and was developed for everyone by Joseph Pilates, a male, non-dancer, who valued physical and mental wellbeing and wanted everyone to live their best life with the help of the method he initially started devising here on the Isle of Man.

 

Joseph Pilates developed his method as a remedy for the effects of what we now call "stress" and the results of limited physical exercise. Joseph believed that his clients could "regain control of their bodies and obtain the rhythm and coordination of movement that civilised living erodes".

 

Many of his clients at his New York studio were injured ballet dancers and other performers who had heard that Joseph's method was wonderful for rehabilitation and the word spread among them initially about the benefits of Pilates at a time when if they couldn't perform they didn't get paid. They then experienced the added benefits of the method, which enhanced their performance skills as well as helping them to recover from injury.

 

Later on, the Pilates method became endorsed by medical research.  It now continues to be used by dancers, famous actors and actresses, performers such as Cirque du Soleil, gymnasts, footballers and many other sports professionals as well as by physiotherapists who prescribe specific Pilates exercises for bespoke treatment of injuries and conditions.  It significantly enhances everyday living for everyone who practices it regularly - as Joseph Pilates intended it would do.

 

 

Benefits of Pilates

 

The main physical benefits are better alignment, mobility, increased bone and muscle strength, improved flexibility, posture, coordination and balance: all of which also contribute to better use and enjoyment of our bodies in daily activities and sports, help to prevent injury and also assist with rehabilitation when necessary.  

 

Pilates re-balances the body, changing the way in which muscles are recruited to produce movements.  It also develops mind-body awareness and connection, helping us gain awareness, control and inter-connection between our body and mind.  It has significant benefits for our mental and emotional wellbeing and the benefits of Pilates breathing are substantial in their own right.

 

Pilates is an all-body and mind practice, so although it is very well known for structurally developing core strength, flexibility and improving posture, it also importantly releases tension in our bodies.  Physical and emotional tension can be interlinked and also the mental focus and concentration required for Pilates helps clear our minds and reduce mental tension too.

 

 

What is Pilates?

The Pilates method stretches and exercises the whole body, developing the body uniformly, rather than overdeveloping certain muscles which can happen in many other types of exercise, sport and practice.  Lateral breathing is practised in Pilates, where the lungs are expanded fully while the abdominal muscles remain engaged, emphasising movement of the diaphragm and prolonged, controlled exhalation. This not only energises the lungs and body, but also leaves the core muscles free to engage and support the movements.  Full concentration and attention to detail is required, therefore it is a mindful practice and does not include mindless repetitions of movements.

 

Movement is key in Pilates, so positions are rarely held for any length of time and the way the movement is carried out is far more important than the range of movement or number of repetitions.  The movements are designed to be efficient and effective, so lots of repetitions are not an aim or requirement in Pilates.

 

Correct alignment, concentration, centering, control, flow, precision, isolation, routine and breathing are key elements of the method which, as well as providing other benefits, help to develop and maintain core muscle strength and support while performing isolated movements of the body.  This leads to the ability to maintain the same core support and overall body strength and flexibility in everyday functional positions and movements and to enhance performance in other sports or activities.

 

 

Types of Pilates

 

Origins and Development

 

Our Pilates origins page gives an overview of the origins and initial development of the Pilates method.  

The Pilates method always involves the main Pilates principles, whether movements are performed on a mat or on large pieces of apparatus.

 

Over the years, individuals from various backgrounds have learned and appreciated the Pilates method and some have understandably developed an emphasis on their own experience of its benefits and use in their particular field.  Some with medical backgrounds have helpfully broken down elements of the method and refined some of the movements to enable the general public to practice them as safely as possible and in a way that will result in the most benefit.  Others have their own preference with respect to how or why the movements are practiced and in what style.  

 

A physiotherapist in a clinic may use a Pilates movement, or set of movements, to importantly help rehabilitate or rebalance an area of a client's body.  Depending on the type of Pilates training the physiotherapist has received, in this setting, very importantly the rehabilitation and rebalancing for that client at that time is the main focus, rather than perhaps other elements of the Pilates method.  A fitness instructor may incorporate elements of Pilates movements into a fitness class which will have valuable benefits for clients, but may not include all the benefits of the Pilates method.

Large Equipment

 

Joseph Pilates developed various pieces of large apparatus for use in his method and aspects of using this equipment also assist with the movements he developed for practice on a mat. The large Pilates equipment is very different to typical gym equipment which can put pressure on joints if the user has not developed enough muscle strength for the weight they are trying to move.  Pilates equipment enables the user to engage a wider range of muscles and train flexibility and balance more effectively than gym equipment may do.

 

Pilates equipment uses springs and provides both resistance and assistance to the user. Resistance improves muscle strength and control and the springs can also assist and support in carrying out movements.

 

Understanding how to use the larger Pilates equipment (such as the reformer, Cadillac and Wunda chair) also helps fully understand the Pilates method as many aspects of the movements and techniques used on the larger equipment are transferrable onto the mat.  For 10 years we have been learning in a weekly 1:2 session how to use the larger equipment and we have the main pieces of large equipment in our home on which we practice regularly.  Although we have not yet trained to teach on the larger equipment, we believe that our understanding of it definitely helps us in the use of smaller equipment used on the mat and in teaching the matwork as effectively as possible.

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