Reformer Pilates - Then and Now

Most people have heard of Pilates and lots of people practice the Pilates method weekly. Lots of people who have heard about it, have done so because their physio or physical therapist or primary health care provider has recommended that they take it up to help with some sort of back or other physical pain they are experiencing, but do you really know what pilates is all about?  Here’s a very brief history and evolution of Pilates. 

Pilates was the invention of a German man named Joseph Pilates.  In his early years, he was a sickly child and was determined to improve his health through exercise.  He, over his early life, did everything from, gymnastics, weightlifting, ju-jitsu, tai chi, diving and acrobatics, even a circus performer!

When World War I broke out he was living in England and was interned as an enemy alien.  He would train fellow inmates in martial arts boxing and self-defence.  During this time he started to develop, refine and teach his minimal equipment system of mat exercises the Pilates method then called ‘Contrology’.  He had the opportunity at this time to work as a nurse and started to experiment with some of his exercises, attaching springs to patients beds to allow them to tone their muscles even if they could not get out of bed.  This is the origin of the Reformer Pilates machine that we use every day in Finesse.

After the war, he moved to America and along with his wife opened the first Pilates studio in New York.  It instantly became a hit especially with dancers, who found the low impact nature of the Pilates method the perfect way to rehabilitate themselves from injury and help prevent them. He conceived it as, a mental as well as a physical conditioning in which individuals could work their bodies to their full potential. "Contrology", related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles, focusing attention on core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine.

Today there are many different schools of Pilates with their own take on the original work done by Joseph Pilates.  All Pilates’ schools still uphold the basic principles. Pilates is patient-centric, it is about the person doing it, not about the person teaching it.  It’s your body, you’re in control.  It is a series of controlled and challenging movements that will develop lean muscle tone, without impact to the joints.  It will improve range of motion, balancing out tight or weak muscles thus improving the body joints mobility.  It will lengthen tight muscles and strengthen weakened ones, improving the balance in the body and therefore flexibility.  It is a mindful movement practice.  It involves tuning in to your body, finding imbalances and working towards rectifying them.  It will improve core muscle strength, helping the spine move with a strong core. 

Runners are one group of athletes who find Pilates practice beneficial to their sport.  It is about your body and your ability, so it is very adaptable to all levels of fitness.  Even people who sit all week long at the office desk & who do very little movement can gain huge benefits from Pilates.  Because its origins are in rehabilitation everybody is suitable to this dynamic form of exercise. 

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