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What IS pilates really about, and who is this guy named Joe?

Posted by Peter L.

Originally known as "Contrology", the method now known as Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates from the early 1900s until his death in 1967. His fascination and devotion to total life fitness began because Joseph was born small and quite ill. He suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever; but he was also born with an unwavering power of will. Through ongoing education, discipline, and imagination he cured himself of all his ailments, became an anatomical model by his early teens, was a pugilist, a gymnast, and a circus performer. He also studied both Eastern and Western methods of physical and mental fitness. One can easily see the yogic roots of many of his exercises. The Pilates method is designed to uniformly develop supple and pliant muscles that are equally as strong as they are flexible. He believed that a long and strong muscle is much better equipped to function properly than the short, bulbous ones often sought by weight-lifters. In order to create a uniformly developed body, attention must first be paid to the breath. Deep and full breath is essential for nourishing muscles with oxygen rich blood and for proper muscle response. And rather than developing just the muscles right under our skin, the Pilates method focuses on strong and responsive "core" muscles as well as the smaller stabilizer muscles that hold our bodies together and help create fluid movement just as much as we develop the superficial muscles we can see under our skin. Consistent Pilates training can restore proper posture, increase energy levels, combat nervous tension, osteoporosis, back pain, and many other ailments that plague so many of us. In the simplest of terms, Pilates works to restore you to your original state of health, before modern society got in the way. Joseph Pilates developed highly specialized equipment to isolate core muscles by magnifying or decreasing the effects of gravity, and to elicit proper muscle firing by the use of springs for resistance. Pilates exercises are performed both on the mat (with no props required) and on the equipment. None of the exercises should work the muscles to failure or pain, but should rather train you to move with control, efficiency, and grace. For rehabilitation of injury, Pilates has proven extremely safe and effective. One can perform closed-chain movements on the machines, which allow for muscle workout while properly compressing the involved joints and controlling the amount of stress placed on them. These movements, when repeated can train a person how to move properly, which can prevent re-injury. What have I experienced? I have been completely relieved of severe low back pain. I have relieved myself of depression that has plagued me most of my life much more effectively with Pilates and overall holistic health than with any Western psychoanalytic and/or medicinal approach. Pilates is not a cure-all. I do not sell snake oil. I have simply found it has enriched everything I do in my life by creating ease, grace, and confidence.
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Thanks for that informative and inspiring article. I appreciate that background of Pilates since it explains the method and how useful it has been for you!
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