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What is Pilates?

joseph pilatsPilates was created in the 1920s by the physical trainer Joseph Pilates (1880-1967) for the purpose of rehabilitation. Some of the first people treated by Pilates were soldiers returning from war and dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine (to strengthen their bodies and heal their aches and pains). Since the 1920s, the basic tenets that Joseph Pilates set down have been preserved, and to this day, even with some modifications, Pilates remains true to its origins.

The Pilates “method,” as it is now known, is an exercise system focused on improving flexibility, strength, and body awareness, without necessarily building bulk. The method is a series of controlled movements performed on specially designed spring-resistant exercise apparatus (the Reformer, the Cadillac, the Ladder Barrel, and the Stability Chair) or on the floor (mat work), and the sessions are supervised by specially trained instructors. Pilates is considered to be resistance exercise.

Two of the key elements of Pilates are core muscle strength and spinal alignment. The core musculature is loosely defined as the spine, abdomen, pelvis, hips, and the muscles that support these structures.

During a Pilates session, whether it’s on the machines or the floor, your instructor will continuously prompt you to concentrate deeply on your core muscles, as well as on your breath, the contraction of your muscles, and the quality (not quantity) of your movements. These are also key elements of Pilates, and your instructor will emphasize them at every session. The objective of Pilates training is a coordination of mind, body, and spirit, something Joseph Pilates called “contrology.”