To view an excerpt from a PBS special on Pilates follow this link
Who was Joseph Pilates?
The discipline was created by German-born Joseph H. Pilates a century ago.
A sickly child plagued with asthma and rickets, he grew up to be obsessed
about the perfect body. He sought a discipline to combine the physique of
the ancient Greeks with the meditative strength of the East.
The result was a system of exercises he called "contrology," requiring
intense concentration and centered on a strong abdomen, deep stretching,
and focused breathing. It worked for him. Joseph Pilates became a boxer,
diver, skier, gymnast, yoga devotee -- and an incredible physical testament
to his method.
Pilates developed his method to rehabilitate wounded English soldiers during his encampment in World War I, using springs he removed from their hospital beds to assist them as he developed techniques to increase their range of motion. It was from these crude devices that he developed the equipment still used today, including the reformer.
Pilates emigrated to the U.S. in 1926, teaching his method first to boxers
and later ballet dancers, until the rest of the world caught on.
What is meant by strengthening the core?
Muscles that stabilize and mobilize the trunk and assist with breathing are
referred to as the core musculature. In Pilates we initiate movement from
these supportive muscles thus building strength safely and effectively to the limbs and the muscles surrounding the core. (Gluteals, quads, hamstrings, pectorals and lats.)
I am self conscious about my weight and have trouble with exercise. Can I
really do Pilates?
Yes. If you are significantly overweight to obese, working on the reformer and springboard will be helpful. The reformer's raised bed and upholstery allows you to exercise more comfortably and helps to support you. All body types can benefit from Pilates training. All sessions are taught in a supportive and safe environment.
Will Pilates help me lose weight?
Weight loss is achieved when caloric intake (food and drink) is reduced and
caloric burn (exercise) is increased. To that end your Pilates practice can
help you achieve your weight loss goals. Many leave sessions and/or classes
feeling refreshed and invigorated, ready to commit to healthy eating and a
more active lifestyle.
How often can one do Pilates? Can I do mat or reformer or both?
Pilates can be done daily. A well rounded practice includes both equipment and matwork, however continuity and regularity are more important than the type of and frequency of your workouts. A baseline level of core strength can be readily developed with the reformer especially for those who previously exercised infrequently
What should I wear to a class or session?
It's best to wear clothing that's not too loose and that has some "give".
Close fitting clothing allows me to visually check for proper form and alignment. Also some movements are done with legs in the air so loose or short shorts don't work. If you wear socks and have a pair with gripper soles these are helpful. This studio is never concerned with fashionable attire, we are more interested in what's going on with your inside self.
I have a back problem – will Pilates help me?
If you have any sort of back or joint problem you should always check with
your doctor or specialist before embarking on any new exercise program.
However, Pilates is recognized as being of particular benefit to many back
problems. By using and developing the strength of the deep abdominal muscles, the supportive spinal muscles, the muscles of the pelvic floor and the stabilizing muscles of the upper back and shoulder area, you will learn to correct your posture, reduce strain and stress and realign the body. Your deep core and back will get stronger and your pain will gradually reduce. Many osteopaths, physical therapists and doctors now recognize the benefits of Pilates based exercises and recommend the technique to their own patients for post rehab. You should NEVER come to class while in pain, injured, or are sick.
Is the Pilates method suited for Seniors?
Absolutely. There’s no age limit in the practice of the Pilates method, as many of the very first pupils of Joseph Pilates show. Many of them are in their 80s and are still teaching and working out. The Pilates method works against the natural “stiffening” we all suffer from when getting older. Exercises improve flexibility, stretching and toning muscles.
Why is Pilates considered a mind/body conditioning program?
Pilates requires precision, control and concentration in order to create
movement that is fluid and rewarding. Unlike some workouts, Pilates requires you to continuously think about what you are doing. As a result, you’ll find your Pilates workouts absorbing and even rejuvenating. It may be the one hour of your day when you’re able let go of everything except the present moment.
Can I get an effective workout with Pilates videos and books?
Yes. There are hundreds of titles of Pilates exercise DVDs and books on the market that are a good companion to learning and practicing this method of exercise. Through books you will get a good understanding of the philosophy behind the method and can practice some moves through their descriptions and step-by-step pictures. Through Pilates videos and DVDs you will be able to see each movement executed correctly plus hear explanations and verbal cues to help you try each exercise yourself. Gaiam, Stott Pilates and Winsor Pilates have produced quality series of Pilates videos that you can try at home.
That being said, personal instruction with a Pilates professional is the best way to ensure you are using correct form and technique. Many moves engage deep muscles difficult to isolate and subtle body adjustments can make the difference between effective and ineffective exercise. Try some beginner books and DVDs at home to get an idea of what Pilates is all about, but then join a group class or get some one-on-one instruction to ensure you are developing good form. Once you’ve had some fine-tuning and are confident you are on the right path, you can continue to workout at home along with the guidance of Pilates videos , DVDs and books.
What is a Mat Class?
A Mat Class is within a group setting with no more than 10 people to ensure
specific instruction. During the class you will lie on a mat, sit or stand and
learn the principles of Pilates. The Pilates principles will be integrated into
each exercise. The exercises use your own body weight plus props for
resistance and should be modified for your fitness level and become more
and more progressive and challenging as you develop awareness, strength,
flexibility, coordination, endurance and strength.
What age group is Pilates for?
Pilates can be beneficial for virtually all ages, fitness levels and body
conditions. Pilates is still popular with dancers, gymnasts, athletes and
others in their physical prime but it is equally suitable for almost any age.
Indeed, one of the beauties of Pilates is that it can be tailored to benefit the individual unique physical condition. Many clients are middle-aged or elderly. More than a few start doing Pilates specifically because they have reached ‘a certain age’, realized that they no longer do any exercise and suddenly thought, " I have to start to do something, or else I’ll fall apart."
Older clients still might have to ask medical advice before taking up Pilates
and to start more slowly. Many people, however, do Pilates into their eighties and nineties. A properly tailored Pilates program is one of the best-known ways to ward off the disadvantages of aging. Your true age, in the end, of course, is as much a function of how feel as of the date on your birth certificate. As Joseph Pilates himself put it: ‘If, at the age of 30, you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If, at 60, you are supple and strong, then you are young.’
Can men do Pilates?
They can, and do! Pilates was invented by a man, originally for
his own benefit - and was only later adapted for women. Upper body work
on the reformer can be very intense . Men tend to be less flexible than
women, and so greatly benefit from Pilates throughout life. Here is an article on Pilates for men.
Devotees of Pilates, from Hugh Grant to Martin Amis, John Cleese, Ian
McKellen, Patrick Swayze, and an ever-growing number of famous soccer,
football rugby players, cricketers and other professional athletes find great improvement in their game with regular Pilates.
What’s better, mat or equipment Pilates exercises?
It’s not a matter of one being better than another. The fundamental Pilates
workout can be performed on a mat alone, and great results can be achieved
through beginner, intermediate and advanced moves. The Reformer incorporates light spring resistance that works concentric and eccentric muscle contractions to sculpt, tone and stretch the muscles. Equipment allows you to safely manipulate your body to stretch and engage muscles that are otherwise challenging to isolate. Smaller Pilates equipment pieces such resistance bands, circles and balls also provide an element of variety and focus to a Pilates regimen. A complete and satisfying workout can involve exercises on the mat alone or can be combined with Pilates equipment. Each session can offer variety so that no two
workouts are alike.