As I sit down to write this I realize that it is the birthday of the founder and developer of my favourite form of exercise. Happy Birthday to you Josef Pilates! I also realized that in my 13 years of teaching this art form, I have never actually written about it. So, Josef Pilates, this one is for you.
I fell into Pilates about 13 years ago when I was coming off my my third maternity leave. It was a course that I was offered and so I decided to jump in head first. It was 'love at first sight' and not much has changed since that first lesson. I am often asked what it is that I love about Pilates. There are many things that I love about the beauty of Pilates but I will break it down into three main catagories.
Control: Initially Pilates called his practice 'Contrology' to reflect the idea that movement is meant to integrate the mind and the body all while maintaining a certain amount of neuromuscular control to execute many of the movements. He believed in the notion of properly and scientifically exercising every muscle in your body with the idea that movement begins with your 'core'.
He also claimed that “Contrology” was the complete coordination of body, mind and spirit. It develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit. (Excerpt from Return to Life Through Contrology – Joseph Pilates 1945).
Its uniqueness lies in activating the “core muscles” first and foremost so that the following movements have proper support and originate from the strength built from the abdomen and spine.
Common exercises are broken down and re-educated adding breath and verbal cues to help you guide your body and move with ease and understanding of what your body can achieve while not overdoing anything that doesn’t feel right. Strengthening your spine, abdomen region, and every muscle fibre in your body while moving in a way that improves your blood circulation.I
Deep dive into body awareness: When you are moving intentionally and thinking through each and every movement as you do in Pilates, you start to pay attention to how your body moves, where you hold tension and eventually, where some imbalances may lie. It also fine tunes our ability to truly listen to our body's cues and work within them. Our bodies innately have this beautiful communication loop that is constantly giving us feedback and in Pilates we really tune in and listen.
Remedial in nature: The remedial power of Pilates came ultimately from the desire to rehabilitate others who were injured and in the unhealthy conditions of an internment camp during world war 1. Many of the classical movements in Pilates can be broken down into thoughtful, remedial type of movements that are similar to what you would receive from your favourite Physiotherapist. Each movement builds self awareness and equally as important - self efficacy, the belief that you are capable. If you enter into a class feeling tight and sore or maybe even fearful that the exercises may hurt, little by little, movement by movement, you start to lessen those restrictions and feel a 'freeness' to your mobility and your confidence starts to grow. It truly is a beautiful thing!