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What is Pilates

"Still going strong after almost a century"


“Pilates” is a way of exercising that was developed by Joseph Pilates, who died in New York in 1967. He remained his best advert for the fact that his method works until his death. At the age of 87 Pilates was still very fit. He eventually died following health problems when he tried to save his studio equipment in a fire He believed that mental health and physical health were essential to one another, His goal was help people train to develop their body to their most healthy potential. He wrote a book on his system and philosophy, including his exercises and called it “Contrology”.


Jospeh and Clara Pilates

Joseph Pilates

As a child Pilates was not very healthy. To overcome the effects of his poor health, Pilates studied wrestling, body building, diving, skiing, and gymnastics and developed a series of exercises that he practised on himself. By the age of 14, his physic had improved so dramatically that he was used for anatomical pictures. During his life he kept developing his method and exercises. He moved from Germany to England and in 1926 emigrated to the USA. Here his method started to gain momentum, building up his studio together with his wife Klara, whom he had met on the boat over. Pilates had a faithful following of dancers, his studio was close to one of the well-known dance studios in New York, but he worked with people from all walks of life.

The System

Pilates created what is claimed to be a method of total body conditioning that emphasizes proper alignment, centring, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flowing movement (The Pilates Principles) that results in increased flexibility, strength, muscle tone, body awareness, energy/stamina, and improved mental concentration and relaxation.

These exercises include both mat based exercises and exercises on various machines that Pilates developed. The best known machine is called the Reformer, others are the barrel, Cadillac, Pilates chair and Pedipull (a resistance band).

Currently the mat-based exercises are the most popular and because you only need a mat it is the cheapest way to get introduced to the method.

The Classes

Since Pilates’ death, his students and their students have developed Pilates in different directions, each added their own knowledge. That is why today no two Pilates teachers will teach exactly the same class.

But although the classes differ, the objective of the classes is still the same.

The reason why the method is still going strong today is that the classes are accessible to everybody; male, female, from unfit to world championship athletes, good health, having physical limitations. During a class each person can work at his/her own level. The exercises always include easier options and keep presenting new challenges, no matter what level you are on. The exercises are hard – even if they look simple – but doable. It is about the journey the participants embark on, getting to know their body and how to move it in the most effective way.

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