About Pilates

The Begining

Star Treatment Pilates Joseph Pilates

Joseph Pilates went to England in 1912, where he worked as a self-defense instructor for detectives at Scotland Yard. At the outbreak of World War I, Joe was interned as an " enemy alien" with other German nationals. During his internment, Joe refined his ideas and trained other internees in his system of exercise. He rigged springs to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance, an innovation that led to his later equipment designs. An influenza epidemic struck England in 1918, killing thousands of people, but not a single one of Joe's trainees died. This, he claimed, testified to the effectiveness of his system.

After his release, Joe returned to Germany. His exercise method gained favor in the dance   community, but when German officials asked Joe to teach his fitness system to the army, he decided to leave Germany for good.

In 1926, Joe emigrated to the United States. During the voyage he met Clara, whom he later married. Joe and Clara opened a fitness studio in New York, sharing an address with the New York City Ballet.

By the early 1960s, Joe and Clara could count among their clients many New York dancers. George Balanchine studied "at Joe's," as he called it, and also invited Pilates to instruct his young ballerinas at the New York City Ballet.

"Pilates" was becoming popular outside of New York as well. As the New York Herald Tribune noted in 1964, "in dance classes around the United States, hundreds of young students limber up daily with an exercise they know as a pilates, without knowing that the word has a capital P, and a living, right-breathing namesake."

When Joseph Pilates died in 1967, his method was barely known beyond the elite group of dancers, actors, and wealthy clients who trained at his studio. Joe believed passionately in his work and wanted every school and gym to teach it. He dreamed of a day when "Pilates" would become a household word. "I am fifty years ahead of my time," he once said. He was right.

The Benefits

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A Refreshing Mind-Body Workout

Pilates gets your mind in tune with your body. By emphasizing proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment, and complete concentration on smooth, flowing movement, you become acutely aware of how your body feels, where it is in space, and how to control its movement. The quality of movement is valued over quantity of repetitions. Proper breathing is essential, and helps you execute movements with maximum power and efficiency. Last but not least, learning to breathe properly can reduce stress.

Build Strength Without "Bulking Up" - Gain Long, Lean Muscles and Flexibility

Conventional workouts tend to build short, bulky muscles - the type most prone to injury. Pilates elongates and strengthens, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility. A body with balanced strength and flexibility is less likely to be injured.

Develop a strong core - flat abdominals and a strong back

Pilates exercises develop a strong "core," or center of the body. The core consists of the deep abdominal muscles along with the muscles closest to the spine. Control of the core is achieved by integrating the trunk, pelvis and shoulder girdle.

Create an Evenly Conditioned Body and Prevent Sports Injuries

In conventional workouts, weak muscles tend to get weaker and strong muscles tend to get stronger. The result is muscular imbalance - a primary cause of injury and chronic back pain. Pilates conditions the whole body, even the ankles and feet. No muscle group is over trained or under trained. Your entire musculature is evenly balanced and conditioned, helping you enjoy daily activities and sport with greater ease and less chance of injury.

Learn Efficient Patterns of Motion

Pilates exercises train several muscle groups at once in smooth, continuous movements. By developing proper technique, you can actually re-train your body to move in safer, more efficient patterns of motion - invaluable for injury recovery, sports performance, good posture and optimal health.

Be Confident and Safe

No other exercise system is so gentle to your body while giving it a challenging workout. Many of the exercises are performed in reclining or sitting positions, and most are low impact and partially weight bearing. Pilates is so safe, it is used in physical therapy facilities to rehabilitate injuries.

Be Challenged

Pilates is also an extremely flexible exercise system. Modifications to the exercises allow for a range of difficulty ranging from beginning to advanced. Get the workout that best suits you now, and increase the intensity as your body conditioning improves.

From the Pilates Method Alliance

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What are the Benefits?

Pilates yields numerous benefits such as increased spine mobility (Carr & Day 2004), increased muscle flexibility (Schroeder et al 2002, Otto et al 2004, Rogers et al 2005, Segal et al 2004), improved muscular endurance (Sewright 2004, Rogers 2005), improved posture (McMillan, 1998) improved tennis serve velocity (Sewright 2004), improved body awareness (Lange 2000), decreased low back pain (Anderson 2006), reduction in the need for lumbar surgeries (Cohen 2006), improved bone density (Betz 2005), improved ability to correctly contract the transversus abdominus (Herrington & Davis 2005), improved pelvic control (Herrington & Davis 2005) recruitment of Rectus Abdominus and External Oblique muscles (Esco et al 2005), and decreased lumbar paraspinal muscle activity in subjects with low back pain. (Quinn 2005)

Spine Position- Neutral vs. Flat Back

Joseph Pilates thought that the "spine should be flat like a newly-born infant even throughout adult life."   (Pilates, Return to Life pg. 27) We know today based on a plethora of scientific research that the normal kyphotic and lordotic curves of the spine are healthy and help the spine to absorb compressive forces safely in a vertical orientation to gravity. Today, we refer to "neutral spine" or "neutral zone" as the position where each spinal or vertebral segment bears an equal distribution of force. (Panjabi, 2003) We might also say that neutral spine is the "optimal" position of the spine that would be safe for lifting a heavy object. Environmental influence on what bodies generally need for balanced muscle development appears to change over time. Today, it is no longer the goal of modern Pilates to obtain a "spine that is kept as straight as a plumb line." (Pilates, Return to Life, pg 27) It is postulated that Joseph Pilates' intention in use of the flat back position was to strengthen the abdominals for maximal vertical function. The goal for each client's spine is optimal stability and mobility. When we consider the health and condition of each client's spine, we may choose to bias the program towards flexion or extension based on their issues or physical dysfunctions.

Flexion Biased: Due to Joseph's belief that the spine should be flat or as straight as a plumb line, a great percentage of his exercises involve spine flexion. We now know today that due to the invention of the home computer, the internet, long commutes in automobiles, the population today needs exercises to improve and maintain spinal extension more than ever. The ultimate goal of Pilates is a spine that moves freely with control in all directions; flexion, extension, sidebending and rotation as well as in combinations of those movements. Pilates utilizing spring assistance has been shown to improve spinal flexion. (Carr & Day 2004)

Breathing: Diaphragmatic vs. Costal

Pilates style of breathing emphasizes costal breathing meaning that the posterior-lateral ribs move in an upward and outward motion during an inhalation. A transversus abdominus contraction is required to prevent the distension of the abdominals and subsequent reduction in core control. (Richardson 2004, Chaitow 2002) The exhalation phase may be a passive exhale or a very active "forced expiration" to emphasize rib mobility, lung cleansing and abdominal strength. (Pilates 1945, Richardson 2004) Diaphragmatic breathing allows distension of the abdominals, decreases core control and is often used for relaxation, motility of the organs and in Yoga practices. (Gilbert 1999) Diaphragmatic breathing is not to be used for Pilates exercises nor for vigorous activities such as running, weight lifting, jumping or wrestling.

Not Designed to be Aerobic

Pilates exercise was never designed to be aerobic nor did Joseph claim that his exercises were aerobic. Recent research has supported this statement in showing that Beginner Mat Pilates is low-moderate intensity and Intermediate and Advanced Mat work meets the criteria for moderate intensity activities. (Olsen, et al 2003)

Not Only for Elite or Wealthy

Joseph Pilates wrote Return to Life as a home exercise program (page 18) available to anyone for only the price of the book. He suggested that everyone should do his exercises everyday. He also designed the Wunda Chair as a piece of home exercise apparatus. The public may participate in mat classes for as little as $10-15 per hour. To book a private session with a Pilates teacher should be considered in the same arena as booking time with a massage therapist or personal trainer at a cost of $50-$100 per hour. Pilates teachers also recommend that their clients practice Pilates exercises everyday or at least 3-4 times per week at home to supplement their training in the studio.

Not Only for Healthy or Well

Joseph Pilates modified his method of exercise based on his client's injuries, according to many of the first-generation teachers. Pilates can be modified for unfit, post-trauma, post-disease, elderly, and has been shown to increase enjoyment and participation in exercise even for children. (Ickes 2005, Jago 2005)

Pilates is Not Fusion

Pilates is performed on a mat or apparatus that Joseph Pilates designed: Reformer, Trapeze Table, Wunda Chair, High Back Chair, Ladder Barrel, Half Barrel, Spine Corrector, Ped-O-Pul, Head Harness, Foot Corrector, Toe Corrector, Magic Circle, Bean Bag and Pinwheel. Pilates is not performed in a pool, on a small or large ball or in combination with other forms of exercise and still called Pilates. Today, it is certainly acceptable to apply the principles to all forms of movement, exercise, sports and daily life activities as Joseph intended.

Purist vs. Modified Pilates

The PMA believes that Pilates should evolve along with the advances of modern science, maintaining the integrity of the method with the safety and health of its participants always in mind. This means that if an exercise is determined to be contra-indicated or unsafe we will respect it as historical repertoire and modify it or delete it from any client's program that might be injured by performing the exercise.