The True Benefits of Pilates

Pilates is a form of physical fitness that has had a resurgence over the past decade. Joseph Pilates of Germany originally developed Pilates in the early 20th century. Described as ‘contrology’, Pilates is similar to corrective exercise or medical gymnastics where the mind controls muscle movement. Pilates is a great form of exercise for a wide range of people. That is why Pilates has quickly become one of the most popular exercise programs in the country.

The foundation of Pilates is based on core strength. Every movement originates from the core and progresses out through the extremities. The core is made up of deep internal muscles of the abdomen and back. Due to the American diet and lifestyle, most people don’t have strong core muscles, which can be one cause of low back pain. When the core muscles are strong, they support the spine and are able to control superficial muscles to assist in movement. The objective of Pilates is to develop core strength, flexibility and awareness in order to support efficient and graceful movement in everyday life. Pilates makes people stronger, longer, leaner and increases the ability to function. Every Pilates exercise stretches, strengthens and relaxes the body to enhance natural alignment.

Joseph Pilates developed traditional Pilates using a wide range of apparatuses to guide and train the body. The original philosophy seeks to develop controlled movements that start from the core. This increases strength, flexibility and control of the body. By providing equipment throughout each exercise, additional resistance builds strength. Traditional apparatus includes the Reformer, Cadillac, high chair, Wunda chair, baby chair, ladder barrel, spine corrector and small barrel. Authentic Pilates encompasses six principles, which are maintained within modern day Pilates as well. These six principles describe how Pilates should be completed and why it should be done to these standards. The six principles are concentration, control, center, flow, precision and breathing.

Pilates demands an intense focus throughout each exercise. The way an exercise is done is more important than the exercise itself. Developing muscle control, improves strength and the minds ability to control body movement. The core is the center of the body. Every movement should originate from the core and flow outward to the limbs. As you develop body control each movement should flow with appropriate transition. Precision allows the exercises to flow into each other. It is more important in Pilates to execute one precise and perfect movement than to do 20 sloppy incorrect movements. Improper movements don’t benefit the body and lose their value. By concentrating on precision of movements, they will become second nature, which will carry over into everyday activities. Much like yoga, Pilates requires a focus on breathing. Breathing increases circulation, which expels toxins and increases the intake of oxygen. Deep breathing is cleansing and invigorating. Pilates requires a full inhalation and a complete exhalation. It is referred to as posterior lateral breathing, to expand the rib cage and engage core muscles without changing or impeding movement.

The Pilates principles define how Pilates exercise is more about quality rather than quantity. In contemporary Pilates all exercises have modifications to adapt for all levels of fitness to maintain safety or increase challenge. Although modern Pilates breaks from tradition; authentic Pilates does the same exercise in the same order and contemporary Pilates breaks it down into parts and exercises may vary depending upon the day, instructor or clients. Modern Pilates also has added additional equipment such as small weighted balls, foam rollers, large exercise balls, rotating disks, and resistance bands. These are more modern exercise equipment, which provide the same type of resistance training that the classic Pilates apparatus provided. With all of that, contemporary Pilates still holds the basic values and principles as classic Pilates. Whichever style you choose, you will still benefit from developing strength, flexibility, body awareness and muscle control.

Graduated with a BA in exercise science and have worked in the medical field since. My focus is alternative medicine however all aspects of health interest me. Check out my health website! Everyday Health, Live your Life to the fullest!

Discovering True Classical Pilates

Despite the awkward, lengthy subtitle, Theory and Practice as Joseph Pilates Intended, The Traditional Method vs. The Lies for Sale, there is nothing inept about his discussions of the foundations, key elements, and transmutations of the system. Unlike the many “how-to” manuals on the market, this is a love story – one that makes the reader fall in love with Classical Pilates. It is a must-read for all Pilates teachers and practitioners, particularly those with non-traditional training.

Fiasca sets the tone early on, establishing his sincerity, legitimacy, and passion for the Method as he relates his journey into Contrology. He leaves the reader with no doubt as to what makes Pilates unique, emphasizing the athletic, corrective, and organic nature of the system.

Recounting the universally accepted principles of Pilates, he adds a seventh principle – cardiovascular conditioning.

If this isn’t enough to clearly define the Method, Fiasca goes on to explain the differences and similarities between Classical Pilates and physical therapy, dance, and yoga. His skillful writing and solid research make these comparisons striking.

Although informative, his discussion of the factors influencing Joseph Pilates and his work is less engaging. Since we know so little about Pilates’ early life, much of this is educated speculation. Fiasca traces the roots of Pilates’ mind/body connection to Greek influences on German culture and civilization. The origin of the third component of the system, the spirit, proves more elusive, leading to a lengthy examination of various religious concepts of spirit.

Chapter 4 is a joy to read! The highlight of the book is a discussion of the four necessary conditions of Classical Pilates. Fiasca delights the reader with well-turned phrases and powerful analogies, referring to “the symphonic arrangement of all of our movements” as The Art of Flow. When flow is viewed through the eyes of a classical practitioner, it takes on greater clarity: “we not only practice creating shapes, but we articulate these shapes and refine these shapes.” Transitions, then, become an exercise in weight transference between movements. Equally as illuminating are his clarifications of flat-back position, breathing, and external rotation. In the world of Pilates manifestos, it doesn’t get any better than this!

In contrast to the powerful prose are the graphics, which are often a distraction. Posed and sometimes even hokey, they do not reflect the organic nature of the work. One photograph shows Fiasca and Jamie Trout simultaneously performing front splits and Russian splits respectively on the same reformer. While this may be Pilates art, it does not enhance the concept of flow and the idea of creating shapes that the author emphasizes. Thankfully, he corrects this flaw in the second edition, utilizing classic photographs of the traditional method to more accurately reflect his intention.

Psychology AND Pilates mesh in the form of Metaphors for Living, a self-reflective tool Fiasca developed “to increase one’s insight as discovered through the traditional Pilates method.” An exploration of the parallels, as well as the differences, between psychology and Classical Pilates is instructive in helping students to determine appropriate boundaries when working with clients: “a single comment can have a lasting effect upon a student’s life.” The physical journey is inextricably linked to the emotional voyage. As a psychologist, Fiasca is well-equipped to offer guidance in this area, recognizing the symbiotic relationship between teacher and student. And his advice is invaluable.

Peter Fiasco is author of this article on Classical Pilates Education.

A compilation of talks given by Pilates Master Ron Fletcher Pilates Master Ron Fletcher discusses his long and storied relationship with Joseph and Clara Pilates and his evolution of their work together — with Clara’s blessing. In addition to his touching and deeply personal reminiscence of Joseph and Clara Pilates, this dvd includes the description of the origins and development of Fletcher’s Percussive Breath, Towelwork and Spine Corrector Programs. And, for the first time ever, Ron Fletcher reads and shares with the world the historic letters from Clara Pilates, penned to him in the years following her husband’s death — and in the dim light of her failing eyesight — as she recognized and endorsed his role in the ongoing evolution of the Pilates method. This is a story only Ron Fletcher can tell… and no one tells a story quite like him! A MUST for anyone interested in the genuine history and evolution of the Pilates method.

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