Pilates What is it?

Pilates What is it?

PILATES Firstly, What is it? Pilates is a form of exercise which was developed during the 20th Century by Joseph Hubertus Pilates.


Joseph Pilates was born near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880. He was quite an ill child who suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. He came to England in 1912 and had many jobs, one of which was as a circus performer. When the First World War broke out, Pilates was taken to a prisoner of war camp where he became a nurse. It was here that he became known for his programmes of physical activity. It is believed that his programme saved the lives of the men in his care due to their survival of a massive influenza epidemic which is known to have killed thousands of people.


Although Pilates had no formal training in physical therapies, he studied many forms of exercise including, Tai Chi, Yoga, self defence and circus training. During his time in the prisoner of war camp he trained other prisoners and studied how his exercises affected them. Because many of them were veterans of war, they had various injuries including loss of limbs, this helped him to gain knowledge and experience in the rehabilitation of others.


When the war ended, Pilates emigrated to the USA. It was on the ship that he met his future wife Clara. It was with Clara that he taught and supervised students within their studio in New York City. He called his programme Contrology. Within this studio he worked with professional dancers, gymnasts and actresses rather than injured individuals. Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 87. He leaves behind him a philosophy which was the integration of the mind and the body to develop both physical and mental conditioning benefits.


People are often referred to Pilates classes by Doctors, chiropractors and physiotherapists when they have experienced injury or pain. However, Pilates isn’t just for the injured. Pilates exercises encourage good posture and form when performing the movements. The exercises focus on stretching tight areas and also strengthening weak areas.


Our lifestyle today often helps us to develop imbalance and often pain within the body, mostly due to poor posture and incorrect movement patterns. Exercises completed within a Pilates class focus on precision. Although core stability is a large part of the programme, Pilates also develops shoulder and pelvic stability as well as maintaining the natural alignment of the spine. Doing Pilates on a regular basis can help you to move better, not only in life, but also in other fitness activities. Therefore helping to develop better results from the practice.


Many people often think that Pilates is all about developing the core muscles in particular achieving the elusive ‘6 pack’. However, core muscles are much more than this. In fact, the ‘6 pack’ muscle is only one muscle, the Rectus Abdominis. This muscles runs from the pubic bone to the bottom ribs and its primary function is to flex the spine – in other words, bend the spine forward. Core muscles also include the internal and external obliques which assist with spinal rotation; a deep abdominal muscle called Transversus Abdominis which assists with spine stabilisation. Other core muscles are found at the back of the body along the length of the spine and include the erector spinae and multifidus. Finally we also have the diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscle group, also included under the title of core muscles. A strong rectus abdominis would be quite ineffective if the spinal muscles and muscles around the pelvis were weak.


Effective Pilates classes will help to create balance within the body and the mind as well as rectifying imbalances.

  • Benefits of Pilates include:
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Increased muscle endurance
  • Reduction in pain levels
  • Increased mobility
  •  Increased flexibility
  • Better posture
  • Improved movement
  •  Reduced stress levels
  • Improved strength of the pelvic floor muscles
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Improved lung function and breath technique
  • Reduction of injury recovery time
  • Improves balance and co-ordination
  • Increases sense of well-being

Finally, How do you pronounce it?

 Pill – ah – teez.