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Pilates


Overview :

Origins

Joseph Pilates (pronounced pie-LAH-tes), the founder of the Pilates method (also simply referred to as "the method") was born in Germany in 1880. As a frail child with rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever, he was determined to become stronger. He dedicated himself to building both his body and his mind through practices which included yoga, zen, and ancient Roman and Greek exercises. His conditioning regime worked and he became an accomplished gymnast, skier, boxer, and diver.

While interned in England during World War I for being a German citizen, Pilates became a nurse. During this time, he designed a unique system of hooking springs and straps to a hospital bed in order to help his disabled and immobilized patients regain strength and movement. It was through these experiments that he recognized the importance of training the core abdominal and back muscles to stabilize the torso and allow the entire body to move freely. This experimentation provided the foundation for his style of conditioning and the specialized exercise equipment associated with the Pilates method.

Pilates emigrated to the United States in 1926 after the German government invited him to use his conditioning methods to train the army. That same year he opened the first Pilates studio in New York City. Over the years, dancers, actors, and athletes flocked to his studio to heal, condition, and align their bodies.

Joseph Pilates died at age 87 in a fire at his studio. Although his strength enabled him to escape the flames by hanging from the rafters for over an hour, he died from smoke inhalation. He believed that ideal fitness is "the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily preforming our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure."

During the initial meeting, an instructor will analyze the client's posture and movement and design a specific training program. Once the program has been created, the sessions usually follow a basic pattern. A session generally begins with mat work and passive and active stretching. In passive stretching, the instructor moves and presses the client's body to stretch and elongate the muscles. During the active stretching period, the client preforms the stretches while the instructor watches their form and breathing. These exercises warm up the muscles in preparation for the machine work. The machines help the client to maintain the correct positioning required for each exercise.

There are over 500 exercises that were developed by Joseph Pilates. "Classical" exercises, according to the Pilates Studio in New York involve several principles. These include concentration, centering, flowing movement, and breath. Some instructors teach only the classical exercises originally taught by Joseph Pilates. Others design new exercises that are variations upon these classical forms in order to make the exercises more accessible for a specific person.

There are two primary exercise machines used for Pilates, the Universal Reformer and the Cadillac, and several smaller pieces of equipment. The Reformer resembles a single bed frame and is equipped with a carriage that slides back and forth and adjustable springs that are used to regulate tension and resistance. Cables, bars, straps, and pulleys allow the exercises to be done from a variety of positions. Instructors usually work with their clients on the machines for 20-45 minutes. During this time, they are observing and giving feedback about alignment, breathing, and precision of movement. The exercises are done slowly and carefully so that the movements are smooth and flowing. This requires focused concentration and muscle control. The session ends with light stretching and a cool-down period.

Once the basics are learned from an instructor, from either one-on-one lessons or in a class, it is possible to train at home using videos. Exercise equipment for use at home is also available and many exercises can be preformed on a mat.

A private session costs between $45-75 dollars, depending on the part of the country one is in. This method is not specifically covered by insurance although it may be covered when the instructor is a licensed physical therapist.




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