Pilates is not Yoga. It is not a relaxation stretch class. It is not physiotherapy. Pilates is exercise — a weight resistance strength methodology that is progressive with over 500 exercises across various Pilates apparatus. It was invented in the 1920’s by a fitness expert named Joseph Pilates.
Pilates focuses on strengthening the deep core muscles of the torso; abdominals, hips, lower back and buttocks — which as a collective, Pilates himself coined the ‘Powerhouse’. Pilates is progressive and adaptive — as one grows in strength, the level of difficulty and intensity of the exercises escalates and becomes more aerobic. For complete strength, control and endurance in the body, all Pilates exercises work the extremities (arms and legs) as ‘extensions of the Powerhouse’.
Pilates follow 6 main Principles; Concentration, Centering, Control, Breathing, Precision and Flow, and it is through these Principles one works the depth of the Powerhouse.
The Pilates apparatus
These days when you hear about Pilates, one instantly thinks of the Reformer or Mat. However, the Pilates method is comprised of many more apparatus such as the Cadillac, Barrel (large, small and the Spine corrector), Electric chair, Wundar Chair, Baby chair, Guillotine and the Pedi-Pull plus all the smaller auxiliary apparatus.
The Reformer’s main purpose was to help support, align and give resistance to strengthen and stretch the body. The other apparatus were developed for specific exercises to define and refine intricacies of the body. And the smaller auxiliary apparatus such as the Foot corrector were more for strengthening fundamental aspects of the body.
A little-known fact of Pilates is the Apparatus was developed subsequent to the Mat. After witnessing people having difficulty on the Mat with basic tasks such as lifting the head, legs and arms, as well as lengthening the back — Joseph Pilates created the apparatus to provide external resistance to aid the anchor and stretch the body. The end reasoning for the apparatus was to enable the perfect Mat work.
In contrast to popular knowledge, the Mat is the hardest apparatus because it has no resistance and support. The Mat relies entirely on proprioception to align the body, endurance of the powerhouse to lift and support one’s weight and strength to work muscle stretch and resistance within each exercise.
A typical Pilates sessions should be partly Reformer and Mat, then 3–4 specific exercises on one or two apparatus for the individual and lastly a stretch if necessary. Make no mistake a Pilates class should be rigorous, focused, challenging and dynamic. It should energise the body, focus the Mind and lift the Spirit!
*Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article — defining the difference between Pilates and Traditional Pilates.
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