What is Pilates

Jo-Pilates

Pilates is a discipline focused on developing core strength, especially in areas vital for support to the spine and abdomen. The regimen is also an effective means to tone and firm- mostly through posture corrections and the reconfiguration of muscles.

On-going Pilates training will elongate the spine through realignment, improving overall flexibility and restoring height that life and gravity may have diminished. The Pilates method originated during World War I as a therapeutic option for osteopathic patients. Its inventor, Joseph Pilates, called his regimen “Contrology” because it taught a student to be in control of his/her body and “not at its mercy.” When the discipline was discovered by the dance community in the 1920s, the Pilates method was enthusiastically endorsed as an exercise capable of building long, lean muscles without adding bulk. Through these dancers, the regimen has gradually moved to the forefront as a fitness option and today is a basic part of physical training and physical therapy.

Pilates was once known almost exclusively to the dance world, but over its 85+ year life span the general public has gradually become aware of its gentle-on-the-joints approach to fitness. Every year more and more people abandon whatever current exercise fad is in fashion to enroll in Pilates, a technique that sculpts a body back to health without wear and tear on ankles, hips, knees or elbows. One of the primary benefits of Pilates, however, is how it affects everything else one does. One learns not only the specific exercises, but a philosophy for the correct use of muscles, joints, and breath during basic life movement. As students develop this body awareness, participation in other strenuous activities are less likely to cause injury. In short, Pilates students will actually get more benefit out of that activity because of the application of the principals they have learned through the Pilates method.

Every Pilates session starts out with breathing and relaxation exercises designed to move the student into a more natural alignment. One will then be led through several exercises designed to loosen the back, neck, chest, hip joints and other body areas where muscle tension may need release. Only then does one begin the real exercises. Every move is performed with perfect alignment and is modified as necessary to ensure that the alignment is maintained throughout. In this manner, one’s body is strengthened into patterns of correct posture. Each set of muscles is also trained in such a way as to create perfect balance in the body; whenever a muscle is worked, its opposite muscle is also worked.

​Additionally, rather than doing many repetitions of one movement (like 50 push-ups), in Pilates the student performs 5-10 reps of many exercises designed to affect the muscles slightly differently. By emphasizing deliberation and control in every exercise, both the concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) contractions of the muscles are worked. This creates the long, lean musculature of a dancer, rather than the shorter, bulkier muscles of a weight-lifter. Recent studies have shown that emphasizing the eccentric contractions when exercising results in a significantly greater increase in bone density over concentric contractions alone. This is particularly important for women, as it is an effective treatment for and prevention of osteopenia and osteoporosis.