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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.


The method which was created over a hundred years ago and is now practiced all over the world by top sports professionals, dancers and also prescribed by medical professionals is also just as beneficial and accessible to people like us - for very good reasons!


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 every day 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 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. Many people experience a feeling of emotional and mental wellbeing after a Pilates session as well as appreciating the physical benefits.  



What is Pilates?


Pilates is a method/technique and not just a set of movements or exercises, although professionals such as fitness trainers and medical professionals can prescribe or teach movements and exercises and refer to them as "Pilates", often without teaching the Pilates method.  

Depending on someone's training background and also perhaps the aim of their training and the purpose of their teaching, there is nothing wrong (in our view) with this as long as the movements are taught safely (and it is preferable that the movements taught are Pilates movements if they are being referred to as "Pilates" exercises).  However, it is helpful to be aware that there is a huge difference between carrying out certain Pilates movements and practicing the Pilates method.


The Pilates method stretches and exercises the whole body, rather than overdeveloping certain muscles, which can happen in many other types of exercise, sport and practice. In the Pilates method, full, lateral breathing is taught, emphasising movement of the diaphragm and prolonged, controlled exhalation. Full concentration and attention to detail is required, therefore it is a mindful practice and does not include mindless repetitions of movements.


Developing the body uniformly is a root aim of the Pilates method and one which has numerous important benefits.  The Pilates method aims to enable a person to gain control of their entire body and to use the body in the most effective, beneficial way.  The way in which Pilates movements are performed is far more important in the Pilates method than the extremity of the movement or the number of repetitions carried out. 


Correct alignment, concentration, centering, control, flow, precision, isolation, routine and breathing are key elements of the Pilates 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



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 its use in their particular field.  Some have broken down elements of the method and used those elements for specific purposes and others have their own preference with respect to how the movements are practiced.  


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 it can be the strengthening, perhaps stretching, benefits of repeating the exercise which is the priority for the rehabilitation and rebalancing for that client at that time, rather than other elements of the Pilates method.  A fitness instructor may incorporate Pilates movements into a fitness class, perhaps after learning them from YouTube or from a text book, or perhaps from online or even in-person fitness-based training; these movements will still have valuable benefits for clients, but may not include all the benefits of the Pilates method.


To help ensure that there is some distinction between the types of Pilates being taught, the Society for the Pilates Method (SPM) has recently been established in Britain.  Jonathan was delighted to be commissioned to research and communicate with key people in the British history of Pilates to compile the first timeline of the British Pilates history for the SPM.

Teachers are also strongly influenced and able to teach what they have learned in their own initial and ongoing training and practice.


It is important that a teacher of the Pilates method knows how to perform each movement and version of the movement correctly in their own body (even if, at some times, they are unable to do so due to their own injuries or illness) so that they can pass on this knowledge with experience as effectively as possible to students.  Our Pilates journey and the incredible teachers we have met and learned from have helped us to acknowledge, learn and teach elements which may not be taught by those who have trained with a non-Pilates specific training body, although we totally respect that there is room for all styles and uses of the effective exercises originally created by Joseph Pilates.


Joseph Pilates developed various pieces of large apparatus for use in his method and aspects of using the large 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 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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