Pilates (Pronounced PUH-LAH-TEES) is fast becoming the talk of the town. What is it you ask and why all the fuss?
Although this unique exercise form is a relatively new concept locally, it has been in practice for many years amongst dancers, athletes and celebrities both locally and internationally. Here is the history of the 'Man behind the movement' (If you'll excuse the pun)
Joseph Pilate's - Born in the North German City of Dusseldorf in 1880 - was a frail child prone to sickness. It is said that the threat of developing tuberculosis spurred him to work on improving his physical fitness. He was so successful, that by the age of fourteen he was posing as a model for anatomical drawings.
Not much is recorded about his young adult years except that he built up his body practising gymnastics, skiing and diving.
Pilate's worked in Britain from 1912-1914 as a circus performer, boxer and self-defence trainer and was interned in England as a German National during 1914-1918. In order to stay fit and healthy, he developed a fitness programme, which he taught to fellow internees. (It is believed that those that trained with him avoided a dreaded flu epidemic that crippled the rest of the camp.)
In 1923 Pilates immigrated to the USA where he set up the world renowned New York Studio on 8th Avenue. It is believed that the reason for his emigration was that he was approached to train the soldiers of the SS army and refused.
In 1925 Pilates patented his design of the "Universal Performer"- a bed fitted with springs and pulley's used for resistance when realigning and toning the body. (This piece of equipment is the most famous of his brilliantly designed machines still used today in studios worldwide.)
The idea occurred to him while working with sick and injured internees in WW1. "Jo" - as he was affectionately known - modified hospital beds, attaching bedsprings to walls in order to help exercise and rehabilitate his fellow soldiers.
Most exercise systems and sports lack a key ingredient: Balance.
Pilates exercises focus on balancing the actions of the whole body's structure: The skeleton, joints, muscles and major organs. They improve flexibility, strength, stamina and co-ordination.
Much of Pilates' repertoire of work has been passed on from teacher to teacher, Every effort is made to keep the work as close to it's purest form as possible, although modifications and additions have been added due to our ever increasing knowledge of human movement.
By correcting spinal alignment, stretching overly tight muscles and strengthening weak core/ postural muscles, the Pilate's method improves the alignment and general well being of the entire body. A unique breathing pattern governs the movements of the body adding flow and rhythm to the work. Not only does 'the breath' improve circulation - cleansing and invigorating the body - but it also stimulates the contraction of the pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles (transverse abdominals and lumbar multifidus) crucial for stabilising the spine and pelvic girdle. Pilates training can be performed either on equipment (such as the Reformer) or on the mat - Pilates in fact developed his mat work programme first and only later developed his various pieces of apparatus.
Pilates - For everyone
Pilates exercises are ideal for everyone from late teens all through adult life into old age. The work can be of a gentle or challenging intensity depending on the condition of the trainee. The training is also mentally stimulating as concentration and good body awareness are key ingredients for a successful session. A wide variety of exercises can be performed on the various pieces of equipment, as well as on the mat, so "boredom burnout" is not an option when doing Pilates.
Training routines are tailored for each trainee based on his/her specific needs. Some require rehabilitative training for a weak or injured muscle, whilst others require a toning/strengthening programme for sport or just general fitness.
Pilates is a balanced system of training that can be incorporated by anyone as either a supplement to their existing training schedule or a healthy, balanced alternative. To leave you with this famous quote from "Old Jo": " Physical fitness is the first requisite for happiness."
For any further information, or for a trainer in your area, please contact Denise Anderson at "Move on Melba", Newlands, Cape Town on 083 450 6797.