Pilates (pronounced Pi-LOT-eez) is considered a mind and body exercise. It originated with a man named Joseph Pilates back in the early 20th Century. He was a German national living in England; he was also a boxer and performer. He had studied and apprenticed in learning yoga and Zen exercise techniques, as well as learning about the physical training regimens practiced in ancient Rome and Greece. He developed a set of exercise and invented special machines on which to do them. When he was interned at a camp during World War I, he began showing his fellow internees the exercises. After the war, he and his wife, Clara (a nurse), incorporated the exercises to help injured and ill patients. Much of the machinery remains the same today, and home videos offer simple exercises in Pilates that do not make use of the machines, or use bands to help imitate the use of machines.
One of the main focuses of Pilates is to work with balance, and with strengthening the core inner muscles of the abdomen and the back. However, there are Pilates exercises to strengthen every muscle in the body. Concentration on holding specific poses and working certain muscles ensures that you become stronger, helping you burn more calories and tone your body. Additionally, breathing is important in Pilates, as it helps you maintain your focus. As you do Pilates, you will notice similarities to yoga in some of the movements and concepts.
When one practices Pilates regularly, it yields many benefits. Increased lung capacity, from the steady, deep breaths that one takes as one exercises is one of these benefits. Circulation is also improved. Strength and flexibility are gained, as well as balance, posture, and strength in the body’s core. Pilates can also help build bone density and improve the health of one’s joints. Mental benefits include an increased awareness of body, stress relief, feelings of well-being, more energy, and sharper thinking skills.
While many people go to the gym to work on machines with professional instructors, it is also possible to receive some of the benefits at home. Poses and exercises done sitting, standing, or laying down can help you increase strength and balance. However, you should be careful when doing the exercises at home with a video or DVD. You might sustain injury if you do not do the exercises correctly. Working with a trainer initially and then moving to doing exercises in your home can help you get an idea of the proper way to exercise, and allow you to do so on your own without sustaining hurt.
Pilates has been used among sports trainers and by dancers for years. It is only recently that it has been widely used among the public. Additionally, some of the techniques are used in physical therapy and rehabilitation, as the resistance can help patients regain strength and balance. Because of its focus on mindfulness of the body, and because of its ability to increase mental alertness, Pilates is considered a mind-body exercise program. However, unlike yoga, tai chi, and Zen practices, it does not have a spiritual element.
Learn more about the origins of Pilates, and how to find Pilates instruction by visiting Pilates Intro