"It is the mind itself which builds the body." Joseph Pilates
Pilates (pronounced PEE-LA-TEEZ), in a word, is exercise!
More accurately, it is corrective exercise, balancing the body through a series of exercises for physical conditioning developed by Joseph Pilates (1880-1968).
Originally his system of exercise was called Contrology, "the complete coordination of body, mind and spirit", achieving uniform development and balance within the body, emphasizing strong core or "powerhouse" development through the use of imagery.
The series of exercises are the Mat, performed without the assistance of equipment, and the Reformer series, performed on the Reformer. The more stabilizing apparatus equipment, such as the Pole and Low Chair, help support the body in order to find the smaller and deeper muscles of the Powerhouse, assisting in their strengthening and lengthening to achieve balance.
The Pilates method of exercise emphasizes eight basic principles to achieve uniform development of the body: alignment; breathing; centering; concentration; coordination; flowing motion; relaxation; and stamina.
Concentration, Centering and the Breath
Key to Pilates exercise is following the flow and rhythm of your own breath. Joe said "You must out the air to in the air", fully exhaling and fully inhaling to cleanse the body of toxins and bring in much needed oxygen. Using the breath in conjunction with the deep muscles of the abdomen creates a strong and balanced Powerhouse or trunk.
Concentrating, sending the mental message to each muscle for movement, requires listening to the body, how it feels during movement, what muscles are active and which should be active or quite. A whole body exercise, Pilates requires mindful attention be paid during each movement.
Centering is literal, pulling deep core muscles of the belly, such as the transverse abdominus and internal and external obliques, towards spine to support the body during movement, creating lengthened muscles and spine. Combining the breath, listening to the body and directing length of muscle develops a strong and uniformly developed body from the core.
How is Pilates practiced?
Pilates can be practiced everyday by almost everyone. Joe Pilates himself felt that three to four times per week, any combination of sessions, would effect change in the body.
Mat or Private Lesson?
Combining Mat classes with Private (one on one) lessons creates a strong foundation in Pilates exercise.
The Mat work is the most challenging because the body is not supported by the tension of the springs or the stable curve of a barrel. Yet, the Mat exercises, done in their particular order are designed to develop the body uniformly. The full Mat series is the goal.
The apparatus equipment helps the body achieve the Mat exercises by helping the body find its form, strengthening and lengthening muscles where needed, relaxing other areas, all through support. The springs assist by supporting the weight of the body and by creating dynamic tension within the body. The tension in the springs is transferred to muscle; therefore the body holds the strong tension, supporting itself - the goal of Mat. The goal for you is autonomy - to embody the work in your own body, stable and aligned, each and every day.