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About Pilates
"With body, mind and spirit functioning perfectly as a coordinated whole, what else could reasonably be expected other than an active, alert, disciplined person? Moreover, such a body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living. Personal problems are clearly thought out and calmly met." -Joseph Pilates (referring to the benefits of Contrology)

Pilates (pronounced "pi-lah-teez") refers to a revolutionary exercise system developed by a true pioneer of physical fitness technique, Joseph Pilates. Joseph Pilates called his technique "Contrology" or The Art of Control, referring to the mind being deeply engaged, focused and concentrating in order to control the movement of the body, thereby facilitating exercise execution with precision, fluidity and flow. The exercises are either performed on a mat or on specially designed equipment, the most versatile & popular being the Reformer. Pilates exercises were traditionally performed one-on-one, allowing the instructor to tailor the exercises to the individual needs of the student's body, however, group exercise classes are now available for convenience and affordability. For maximum benefits and results, an individual would participate in some private sessions (min. 5) prior to group classes, allowing for greater understanding and benefit to the participant.

Some History…
Joseph H. Pilates was born in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880 and suffered with a sickly childhood which deeply motivated him to rid himself (and consequently his students) of all physical limitations...seeking physical health and strength. He studied both Eastern and Western philosophies, combining the mental focus and specialized breathing techniques of yoga, the physicality of gymnastics and other sports of the ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as the dance and exercise developments which flourished in early twentieth century Germany. Although he personally studied exhaustively, he was also influenced by other exercise enthusiasts of his time, such as bodybuilder/exercise professional, Eugen Sandow who was advocating mandatory fitness for children. Pilates, too, had a great desire to see his method practiced daily by children in schools worldwide. Will his dream come true soon enough? Then in 1926, under pressure from the Kaiser to train the German Army with his fitness programme, and being a committed pacifist, he left Germany for New York City. New York seemed the natural place to introduce his system, being the dance and drama capital of North America. He met and married a nurse named Clara and as fate would have it, they opened a gym in the building housing the New York City Ballet. The dance community quickly realized the tremendous benefit of his technique, particularly in rehabilitating injured dancers, and as Pilates perfected his technique the word spread to the dance & entertainment community in California. However, since his desire was to bring his work to the masses, he published his book devoted to the mat exercises entitled "Return to Life Through Contrology", making his technique available to all.

Some lack of clarity existed regarding the succession of his technique after Joseph Pilates' death in 1967. Since then, many variations of Joseph Pilates' original exercises (called "Classical Pilates") have been developed by various schools of Pilates education. Some hold true to his original technique, while others (such as Stott Pilates, developed by Moira Stott Merrithew) have "contemporized" or updated his technique by taking his original work and applying our modern knowledge of the body and exercise physiology to update the technique. Variations using small "equipment" such as balls, magic circles and resistance bands have become popular to augment and/or modify exercises, provide variety and simulate some of the exercises performed on the Reformer. These are excellent additions to provide challenge and motivation once the basic technique has been perfected.

Joseph Pilates created 6 original principles as the basis of the system:
1. Breath - "above all…learn to breathe correctly." - Joseph Pilates
2. Concentration - focus your mind on the task at hand.
3. Control - complete control of your body by your mind.
4. Centering - "movement flowing out from a strong center."
5. Precision - perform the exercise as perfectly as possible.
6. Flow - will improve balance, control, coordination.

5 Basis Principles of Stott Pilates
1. Breathing
2. Pelvic Placement
3. Rib Cage Placement
4. Scapular Isolation and Mobilization
5. Cervical (neck) Placement

Benefits of Pilates include (source Stott Pilates manual series):
  • longer, leaner muscles
  • core strength & stability
  • injury prevention
  • relief from stress & back pain
  • improved balance & coordination
  • enhanced athletic performance
  • effective post-rehabilitation
  • improved digestion
  • heightened mind-body awareness
  • increased self-confidence
"If you will faithfully perform your Contrology exercises regularly only four times a week for just three months…, you will find your body development approaching the ideal, accompanied by renewed mental vigor and spiritual enhancement. Contrology is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work. You will develop muscular power with corresponding endurance, ability to perform arduous duties, to play strenuous games, to walk, run or travel for long distances without undue body fatigue or mental strain. And this by no means is the end." -Joseph Pilates
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