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Find Out More About Pilates

What is Pilates?

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Pilates is a form of exercise that incorporates deep breathing techniques to improve posture, balance and core strength. It is a method that encourages the use of the mind to control the body. Pilates exercise focuses on increasing strength and flexibility of abdomen and back muscles and coordination of both muscular and mental abilities.

When practiced faithfully, Pilates provides numerous benefits. By focusing on breathing techniques, Pilates can realign the spine and strengthen deep torso muscles. Many report an increase in bone density, making it a good form of exercise for men and women. In a nutshell, Pilates teaches individuals to obtain balance and control over the physical body.

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates around 1914. Joseph Pilates was a boxer who lived in England during WWI. He was a self-taught yoga instructor and Zen practitioner. During the time he was imprisoned, he taught fellow prisoners' yoga and developed a system of exercises known as “matwork”, or exercises done on the floor. Pilates named his exercise system “Contrology” because it focused on controlled breathing.

Around 1917, Joseph Pilates was transferred to another prisoner camp. There he became a caretaker of soldiers and civilians who were stricken with physical injuries and wartime diseases. During this time, Pilates developed equipment for rehabilitation purposes. Using bed springs, he was able to develop a device that offered spring resistance and movement for patients who were bedridden.

Today, Pilates exercise equipment is similar to the devices developed by Joseph Pilates at the turn of the century. Pilates exercise equipment utilized spring tension and straps to hold feet and hands, while providing support for the back, the shoulders and the neck.

Many Pilates' exercises are performed on a mat. They are intended to be performed in fluid motions, as opposed to the static, isolated movements of other popular work-out routines. By focusing intently on each movement, the exercise becomes precise, perfect, and graceful.

People who participate in Pilates exercises on a regular basis develop graceful movement and perfect posture that carries over into their daily lives. Grace of motion is emphasized over speed and performed in a sequence such as a waltz or ballroom dancing.

Pilates helps people develop muscles which are conducive to good posture, suppleness, and natural grace.

The Benefits of Pilates

Pilates is an easy, affordable and convenient form of exercise that nearly everyone can participate in. Pilates is a fluid, gentle form of exercise that does not cause stress to the body. There is no bouncing, jumping, running or strenuous overuse of muscles.

Pilates is an excellent form of exercise for people of all ages. Children and the elderly can participate without concern of injury. Pilates is also ideal for those who suffer with joint pain or muscle weakness.

Pilates can be performed in the privacy of your home, or in a Pilates studio. It does not require much time and can take less than 10 minutes to strengthen your abdominal and back muscles. Results can be seen in as few as 10 sessions.

Engaging in Pilates on a regular basis can improve your physical and mental well-being. A few benefits of Pilates include:

  • A stronger spine. Pilates gives more support to your spine by creating space between each vertebra. This extra space creates more mobility and helps you move with ease and grace.
  • Better balance and coordination. As you age, your muscles weaken and nerve receptors lose sensitivity. Together, these deficits can cause people to become unbalanced. Pilates exercises work the group of muscles needed to maintain balance.
  • Fewer aches and pains. Pilates exercises increase flexibility, which can help to reduce pain and fatigue. It also stimulates the production of synovial fluid (joint lubricant) and increases circulation. As a result aches and stiffness in the legs, back, neck, and shoulders loosen up. Many people report total elimination of joint stiffness when they engage in Pilates on a regular basis.
  • Improved mental clarity. Pilates is a mind/body/spirit form of exercise that not only benefits your physical body, but your emotional healthiness as well. The smooth, continuous movements calm your mind and soothe your nervous system. Each workout will leave you feeling quiet, well-balanced, and regenerated.
  • Gentle conditioning. Pilates is a wonderful form of exercise for people who are out of shape. It is also great for physical rehabilitation. Pilates conditions your muscles in a balanced way through the use of gentle, fluid motion. It can easily be incorporated into any kind of fitness plan.

The History of Pilates

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates around 1914. Born in England in 1880, Joseph was a frail child who suffered from many health afflictions. In an attempt to strengthen his body and regain control of his health, he began experimenting with various types of exercise.

Forty years later, Joseph Pilates perfected his routine through a series of movements now known as Pilates. Throughout Pilates' lifetime he became a self-taught yoga instructor and Zen practitioner. He also became one of England's most well-respected boxers.

In 1914, Joseph Pilates was imprisoned during WWI. During this time he taught fellow prisoners' yoga and developed a system of exercises known as “matwork”, or exercises done on the floor. Pilates named his exercise system “Contrology” because it focused on controlled breathing.

Around 1917, Joseph Pilates was transferred to another prisoner camp. There he became a caretaker of soldiers and civilians who were stricken with physical injuries and wartime diseases. During this time, Pilates developed equipment for rehabilitation purposes. Using bed springs, he was able to develop a device that offered spring resistance and movement for patients who were bedridden.

When Joseph Pilates was released from prison, he returned to Germany and began teaching his exercise routines to the dance community. Hanya Holm adopted many of Pilates' exercises for her modern dance curriculum. Today they are still an integral part of the “Hold Technique.”

Joseph Pilates immigrated to the United States in 1926. During his voyage from Germany to the United States, he met a woman named Clara, whom he later married. Soon after they were married, Joseph and Clara opened a fitness studio in New York.

Joseph and Clara's clients included ballerinas from the New York City Ballet troupe, as well as many other professional dancers.

In 1964, the New York Herald Tribune featured an article about Joseph Pilates and his “odd” exercise routine. Soon after, Pilates became the favorite choice of exercise amongst dancers and ballerinas across the country.

Joseph Pilates developed “Contrology” to help people realign their bones and improve their posture. The purpose of Pilates exercise is to help individuals create balance within their body. It is an excellent exercise for everyone, regardless of their shape, size, or physical condition. Pilates can be used by people with disabilities, arthritis, strength or weight loss issues, and even women who are pregnant.

Pilates Clothing

Pilates is a form of exercise similar to yoga. When engaging in Pilates exercise, it's best to wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing that moves with your body.

There are three pieces of essential clothing worn during Pilates exercise routines: a tank top or tee shirt, spandex stretch pants, and toe socks.

Pilates tops for women are usually in the form of a tank top with spaghetti straps and a built-in bra. Many are constructed from Airstretch; a buttery-soft Brazilian material that allows full motion stretch. The majority of women's Pilates tops have a V-neckline or a scoop neckline.

The Pilates tank top has wider shoulder straps and a scoop neck. Men who participate in Pilates exercises oftentimes choose the tank top because it is sleeveless and allows for greater range of motion.

Pilates tee shirts are a good choice for men or women; particularly those who prefer to cover-up more areas of their body. Pilates tee shirts can be purchased with short sleeves or three-quarter sleeves, which fall half-way between the wrist and elbow.

Pilates pants are constructed of cotton-spandex blend fabric. They are similar to yoga pants and have an elastic waist band and pant legs have a slight flare. Pilates pants hug the body, yet allow for ease in movement. The waistline typically falls a little below the waist and hugs the hips.

Pilates toe socks are designed with a non-slip sole to provide grip on any surface. The sock fits slightly above the ankle and is cut-off above the toes. In other words, the toes are exposed. This allows for proper toe alignment during Pilates exercise and assists with balance and control.

One of the more popular trends in Pilates clothing is clothing manufactured from bamboo. Pilates clothing is made from various blends of bamboo and mixed with organic cotton, Lycra, or spandex.

Pilates clothing manufactured from bamboo is soft and allows for ease of movement. It is a breathable fabric that is absorbent, yet soft. Bamboo Pilates clothing is durable, affordable and easy to maintain.

Pilates DVDs

Whether you are a beginner or a master of Pilates, you can easily locate DVDs which allow you to perform Pilates exercise in the privacy of your home.

DVDs are similar to VHS tapes and require the use of a special device to view them. DVD players can be found in most retail stores, electronic stores, and on-line shops. A basic DVD player is affordable and prices start at about $49.

There are numerous Pilates DVDs available. Some focus on helping with weight loss, while others focus on toning specific areas of the body such as arms, legs or buttocks. Many Pilates DVDs instruct users on Pilates exercise through the use of a mat, exercise ball or foam roller. A few are instructional videos for those who have purchased Pilates exercise equipment.

Pilates DVDs are 30- to 60-minute instructional videos which offer step-by-step instructions. One of the most popular Pilates DVDs is a series produced by Moira Stott-Merrithew. Moira is an international expert on Pilates exercise and has developed over 30 Pilates DVD videos.

Each video offers a unique combination of Pilates and aerobic conditioning exercises that are fun and easy to follow. When using DVDs to perform Pilates exercises at home, the only tools required are an exercise mat and supportive shoes or Pilates toe socks.

Another popular collection of Pilates DVDs are those developed by Peter Fiasca, founder of Classical Pilates, Inc. in Southern California. Peter Fiasca is a certified Pilates instructor who studied under the pilates master, Romana Kryzanowska.

Peter Fiasca has created an award-winning series of six Pilates DVDs, which have been featured on QVC, a popular home shopping show. He has earned two masters degrees and a Ph.D in psychology. His Pilates DVDs focus on total body conditioning.

Dr. Suzanne Martin, PT, DPT, has developed a Pilates DVD for people with scoliosis. This Pilates DVD focuses on proper body mechanics and postural strengthening. Dr. Martin also include facts about the spine and scoliosis management. In her Pilates DVD she demonstrates how to conduct a Scoliometer screen to judge joint flexibility.

Pilates DVDs offer an affordable solution for those who prefer to learn or practice Pilates exercise in the privacy of their home. These instructional videos offer individuals the luxury of having a private teacher without the cost.

Pilates Instructor

Pilates is a form of exercise that incorporates deep breathing techniques to improve posture, balance and core strength. It is a method that encourages the use of the mind to control the body. Pilates exercise focuses on increasing strength and flexibility of abdomen and back muscles and coordination of both muscular and mental abilities.

Pilates is taught by teachers who have been trained and certified in the Pilates Method and the use of Pilates equipment. There are numerous Pilates workout videos and websites that offer free Pilates videos; however, experts recommend attending at least two to three classes before practicing Pilates at home.

Private lessons are available at most Pilates studios. Prior to your first session, your Pilates instructor will conduct a comprehensive physical assessment. The assessment should include your medical history and a measurable assessment of your physical strength, weaknesses and imbalances.

When participating in group class that uses Pilates equipment, experts recommend that class size be limited to a maximum of six participants. Group classes that focus solely on Pilates mat exercises should be limited to a maximum of twelve participants.

Pilates instructors should educate you on the names and parts of the Pilates equipment, as well as the names of each Pilates exercise. Pilates instructors should physically demonstrate each exercise and explain how many repetitions will be performed and the proper amount of resistance.

Pilates offers many health benefits and is a form of exercise that can be practiced by everyone. It's important to work with a Pilates instructor who motivates you and makes the class enjoyable. Before signing up for a Pilates studio membership, request a meeting with the Pilates instructor or attend a class to make sure you like the instructor and his or her style of teaching.

Pilates instructors who have been certified typically display their certification in a highly visible location. Always ask to see the certification of your chosen Pilates instructor.

Your Pilates instructor should have a genuine interest in you and the reasons you are attending his or her class. They should interact with you and ask questions about your goals and anything that is occurring in your life that Pilates may be able to help you overcome. If the Pilates instructor shows no interest, it's best to look for another instructor.

Last, but not least, you want to work with a Pilates instructor who provides clear instruction. If you are confused about how to perform the exercise, ask questions. If the instructor is unable to provide you with clear instruction, you might want to consider working with someone more qualified.

Pilates Mats

Pilates mats are similar to mats used to perform yoga exercise. The only difference is Pilates mats are thicker than yoga mats. In yoga, there are many standing poses; therefore, mats are thin, so that practitioners can feel the floor. Additionally, yoga mats are sticky on one side to prevent slipping.

Most Pilate exercises are performed on the floor and include techniques such as the Seal and Open Leg Rocker. Since Pilates exercises require considerable body contact on the floor, Pilates mats need to be thicker to protect the body.

There are two types of Pilates mats: roll up and folding. Roll up Pilates mats are usually made of dense foam or rubber. Experts recommend the dense foam mat manufactured from closed cell foam. This type of Pilates mat tends to be thicker than regular foam Pilates mats. Regular foam mats are typically made from softer foam covered with vinyl and tend to be squishier than closed cell foam mats.

When shopping for a roll up Pilates mat look for one that comes with straps that fit around the mat. This helps to keep the mat rolled up for easier storage and transportation. Roll up Pilates mats range in price from $20 to $50.

Folding Pilates mats are generally higher quality than roll up Pilates mats. They are also more expensive and can cost as much as $400. Folding Pilates mats usually include a foot strap and are similar to the type of mat found in Pilates studios.

Folding Pilates mats are heavier and more difficult to transport. It's best to purchase a folding Pilates mat if you are performing Pilates at home. It's important to note that cheap folding Pilates mats are usually not firm enough for a Pilates workout.

Regardless of the type of Pilates mat you choose, make sure the mat is long enough and wide enough to perform Pilates exercises. Roll up Pilates mats are between 72- and 86-inches in length. Widths vary between 21- and 39-inches.

Folding Pilates mats are significantly larger than roll up mats and the average size is 4 feet wide by 8 feet long.

Most importantly, purchase a Pilates mat that is at least one-half inch thick and very firm. A soft Pilates mat will not support balance or proper body alignment.

Pilates Online

One of the most convenient ways to learn Pilates is learning online. There are many websites that offer detailed instructions on how to perform the various moves of Pilates exercises; along with information about Pilates and the benefits it offers.

When seeking information about Pilates online, type in “Pilates”, “Pilates Exercises”, or “Pilates Online” at your favorite search engine. You'll find a variety of Pilates online websites that provide instructional videos or information for beginners to masters.

Many Pilates online sites are membership sites; meaning that you must pay a fee to view videos or obtain instructional information. Pilates online membership sites generally offer higher-quality videos, but unless you have a strong interest or already participate regularly in Pilates exercises, save your money and look for free Pilates online websites.

The official Pilates website is “The Pilates Method Alliance” located at http://www.pilatesmethodalliance.org. There you can locate information about Pilates, equipment used in Pilates exercises, clothing, and how to find a certified instructor in your area. You can also view videos, read articles, download informational Pilates guides and subscribe to the Pilates newsletter.

If you want to become a certified pilates instructor, The Pilates Method Alliance provides multiple forms and information that provides answers to all your questions about how to start a Pilates business.

One of the most popular Pilates online websites is Easy Vigour, located at http://www.easyvigour.net. Easy Vigour provides over 75 free Pilates exercise instructions with pictures, as well as a free ebook that can be downloaded to your computer for future reference.

If you are interested in meeting others who enjoy Pilates, there are several Pilates online forums. Here you can interact with others, ask questions, provide answers, and get the low-down on everything from Pilates equipment, studios, instructors and more.

It's easy to learn about Pilates through online websites and forums. It provides you with the opportunity to determine if Pilates is a good choice for you, and helps you make informed choices about equipment, clothing, studios and instructors.

Pilates Workout Video

Whether you are a beginner or a master of Pilates, you can easily locate a Pilates workout video that allows you to exercise in the privacy of your home.

Pilates workout videos are available in two formats: VHS or DVDs. Both require the use of a special device to view them. DVD players and VCRs can be found in most retail or electronics stores, as well as on-line specialty stores. Basic DVD players and VCRs are affordable with prices starting around $49.

There are numerous Pilates workout videos available. Some focus on helping with weight loss, while others focus on toning specific areas of the body such as arms, legs or buttocks. Many Pilates workout videos instruct users on Pilates exercise through the use of a mat, exercise ball or foam roller. A few are instructional videos for those who have purchased Pilates exercise equipment.

Pilates workout videos generally consist of a variety of workout routines. Some routines only take 10 minutes to complete, while others make last 30 minutes or more. Pilates workout videos are narrated by a professional Pilates instructor and provide step-by-step instructions on how to perform each exercise.

One of the most popular Pilates workout video series is produced by Moira Stott-Merrithew. Moira is an international expert on Pilates exercise and has developed over 30 Pilates workout videos.

Each video offers a unique combination of Pilates and aerobic conditioning exercises that are fun and easy to follow. When using workout videos to perform Pilates exercises at home, the only tools required are an exercise mat and supportive shoes or Pilates toe socks.

Another popular collection of Pilates workout videos are those developed by Peter Fiasca, founder of Classical Pilates, Inc. in Southern California. Peter Fiasca is a certified Pilates instructor who studied under the pilates master, Romana Kryzanowska.

Peter Fiasca has created an award-winning series of six Pilates workout videos, which have been featured on QVC, a popular home shopping show. He has earned two masters degrees and a Ph.D in psychology. His Pilates workout videos focus on total body conditioning.

Dr. Suzanne Martin, PT, DPT, has developed a Pilates workout video for people with scoliosis. This Pilates workout video focuses on proper body mechanics and postural strengthening. Dr. Martin also includes facts about the spine and scoliosis management.

Pilates workout videos offer an affordable solution for those who prefer to learn or practice Pilates exercise in the privacy of their home. These instructional workout videos offer individuals the luxury of having a private teacher without the cost.

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