Sports News Article
Published: 28th November 2011
”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.” Joseph Pilates
“It’s about engaging your pelvic floor.”
“Working your core.”
“Navel to spine!”
“It’s just for women.”
The comments above passed the lips of relatives and friends at a recent birthday gathering; each explaining what they believed Pilates to be. I smiled. Barring the last comment, each had correctly captured an aspect of Pilates, a body-conditioning technique created by Joseph H. Pilates. The New Zealand All Blacks and the England Cricket team incorporate Pilates into their training regime, testimony indeed to the fact that it definitely isn’t, ‘just for women.’
Joseph was born in 1883 in Mönchengladbach, Germany. He worked originally as a gymnast, diver, and bodybuilder. He moved to England in 1912 and earned a living as a professional boxer, circus-performer and self-defense trainer for the Police. Pilates believed that the modern life-style, bad posture and inefficient breathing lay at the root of poor health. He was interned during the 1st World War on the Isle of Man. It was during this enforced ‘break’ that Joseph developed his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he called ”Contrology.” Whilst interned he trained his fellow inmates in fitness and exercise. He designed simple exercise equipment (pulley systems using springs from beds) to help rehabilitate those unable to move from their beds.
After the 1st World War, Joseph migrated to the United States. It was on the boat travelling across that he met his future wife Clara, and in 1926 they set up a studio in New York City where they taught ‘Contrology’ until the mid 1960s, when Joseph died in his 80s.
So what does Pilates do for you?
Pilates is a physical movement program designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. It focuses on postural symmetry, breath control, abdominal strength, spine, pelvis and shoulder stabilization, muscular flexibility, joint mobility and strengthening through the complete range of motion of all joints. Instead of isolating muscle groups, the whole body is trained, integrating the upper and lower extremities with the trunk.
As children we are flexible and relative to our size, strong. The older we become, the more we are likely to develop poor postural habits through out lifestyle; sitting hunched over working or watching TV. We can lose our strong, correctly aligned, balanced body.
Through doing Pilates we become more aware of our body, muscle imbalances and can correct posture and prevent injury by moving, lifting, bending, carrying from a strong core. We move more efficiently and effectively. We develop strength and flexibility.
The benefits of Pilates are many and include:
• Better posture, greater strength and muscle tone, improved joint mobility, body awareness, improved flexibility, toned buttocks, thighs, arms, waist and shoulders, a flatter stomach, greater balance.
• Often those with niggly joint or back problems say their symptoms are relieved as they develop stronger core muscles and are able to carry themselves better.
With consistent practice, Pilates has proven itself invaluable not only as a fitness regime, but as an important means of physical rehabilitation after injury or stroke. There are also some who say how Pilates has helped them manage Parkinson’s disease.
Today there are a variety of different styles of Pilates to choose from; Stott, Body Control, classes with a Classical focus based on Joseph’s original teachings, those with a Modern twist. Each teacher brings his or her own flavour and focus. There is Pilates on the mat using small ball equipment and rollers and there are classes and instructors using the bespoke Pilates apparatus. It’s best to try different classes to see which suits you best. To conclude, in Joseph’s own words...
”In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference, and in 30 you will have a whole new body.”
Rachel Turner is a performance coach & level 3 mat Pilates teacher who uses movement and bodywork to make a positive difference in people’s lives. She can be contacted on 01442 878344 or 07876 125371.