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Pilates Method: A Brief History
Well-known throughout Canada, Europe and Pan-Asia, the Pilates Method (Pee-LAH-tees) is simply a form of physical fitness system that was developed in the early 20th century by a person named Joseph Pilates. On the birth of this method, Joseph Pilates named it The Art of Contrology, which refers to the way the Pilates Method encourages the use of mind to control the muscles. It then evolved into an exercise program that pays great attention on the core postural muscles that are said to help keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine.
The Pilates Method was born during the World War I when Joseph Pilates was placed under forced internment along with other German nationals in Lancaster, England. A trained nurse in his native Germany, he was then investigating ways that he could rehabilitate the bed-ridden victims of the 1918 influenza epidemic. There he taught his fellow camp members the concepts and exercises developed over 20 years of self-study as well as apprenticeship in yoga, Zen and ancient Greek and Roman physical regimens. He then created a series of movements that could be practiced within the confines of this controlled environment. It was also at that time that Joseph Pilates started devising the system of original exercises known these days as 'mat work' or exercises performed on the floor. He called this regimen 'contrology'.
Believing that mental health and physical health were essential to one another, Pilates created the Pilates Method, which has long been claimed to be a method of total body conditioning that emphasizes proper alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing and flowing movements. These concepts are actually the major principles maintained by the Pilates Method up to these days.
However, instead of performing a series of repetitions of each exercise, Joseph Pilates preferred fewer, but more precise movements requiring control and form. Much to your surprise, he designed more than 500 specific exercises to be included in his well-known Pilates Method. The most frequent form of those exercises is the mat work, which actually involves a series of calisthenic motions done without weight or apparatus on a padded mat.
After the development of mat work, Pilates designed five major pieces of unique exercise equipment that he claimed should be used for best results. It is interesting to note that although the two components of the Pilates Method are often taught separately now, the Pilates method was always meant to combine both mat work and equipment exercises. The exercises involved in the Pilates Method generally teach awareness of neutral alignment of the spine. They also strengthen the deep postural muscles that support this alignment, which play a very vital role in alleviating and preventing back pain.
There was one recent development in the Pilates Method - the gravity Pilates. It is often said that with this new system, the body's powerhouse (abdomen, lower back, and buttocks) is supported and strengthened, enabling the rest of the body to move freely.
Today, the Pilates Method is used in the rehabilitation process by many physical therapists. The practitioners of this fitness fad use their own bodies as 'weights' in training in order to build strength and flexibility.