Pilates is an exercise method that is starting to gain recognition in the Philippines as people search for alternative ways to get fit apart from just pumping iron in the gym. You may have a vague idea of what it really is, and like some people, associate it with yoga because it’s done on a mat, incorporates breathing techniques, and focuses on flexibility. If you’re a guy, you might have the connotation that this method is reserved for girls since it’s ‘more on stretching‘ and doesn’t use any equipment.
Pilates is developed by a man named Joseph Pilates who was born in 1883 (so it’s a lot ‘younger’ than yoga). His father was an outstanding gymnast, and his mother practiced naturopathy. Joseph Pilates was sickly as a child and suffered ailments such as asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. This did not cause him to be discouraged, but it made him dedicate his life in improving his well being and pursuing fitness. He studied anatomy by himself as he also immersed himself in different physical activities such as skiing, body-building, boxing, yoga, and gymnastics. By age 14, it is said that he had sculpted his physique to such an extent that he poses for anatomy charts!
Joseph Pilates was originally a gymnast, boxer, and circus-performer. He moved to England in 1912 and taught self-defense to police schools and the Scotland Yard. When Britain entered the World War, he was also imprisoned in different internment camps. Despite of the unfortunate turn of event, this was the start of developing his method. During his imprisonment, he taught exercises to his fellow inmates and improvised on techniques. Because of limited resources inside the prison, he disassembled the beds and used the springs for resistance exercises to rehabilitate the injured and sick. Talk about hardcore!
A significant effect of following Joseph Pilates’ holistic approach to health was shown during the 1918 influenza epidemic. Crowded internment camps were good breeding grounds for the virus. However, all those who followed his routine survived the epidemic! After the war, he continued teaching police officers and he also worked with dancers and gymnasts. He was asked to train the New German army, but he was disappointed with the social and political condition of his country so he decided to immigrate to New York. On the boat, he met his wife Clara, a nurse. They got married and founded Joseph Pilates’ studio named “Contrology.”
Joseph Pilates’ method focuses on breathing, proper posture, and rehabilitation of physical ailments. He wrote several books about his method including Your Health published in 1934 and Return to Life Through Contrology published in 1945. Dancers, gymnasts, physical therapists, and martial artists have benefited from his method.
He trained instructors Romana Kryzanowska and Ron Fletcher, who developed their own methodology (Romana and Fletcher Pilates) since Joseph Pilates doesn’t stick to one way of teaching exercises – he always considers different body types and abilities. Movements from different practices and disciplines have been adapted to Contrology. He even developed exercises that were based from the natural movements that animals do, like the cat stretch, swan dive, and seal. Other exercises have names that people may be familiar with, like the swimming, rolling like a ball, side-bend, cork-screw, jack knife, saw, and boomerang. This makes the exercises easier to remember and understand.
Today, the method continues to improve and evolve. Many techniques are developed and you can find different kinds of exercises based on his method with the addition of modernized equipment, but the main aspects of Contrology are maintained: breathing, proper posture, and balance. To recognize the man behind this holistic approach to fitness and wellness, the method was renamed Pilates.
Pilates is a method developed by a man who was passionate about being fit and achieving control over one’s body. His experience in diverse fields and practices made his method a very dynamic and efficient way to exercise. Pilates helps achieve proper posture and spinal alignment, correct breathing, develop a strong core, and gain flexibility and balance. It trains your body and your mind to work together for a more efficient movement. The exercises require not only muscular strength and endurance, but also focus and concentration. Whether you are a sedentary person or a professional athlete, you are sure to benefit from Pilates.
So if you’re looking for a challenging and holistic workout, Pilates might be for you!