health

joepilatesPilates Method Springs to Life

"I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They'd be happier." - Joseph Hubertus Pilates, in 1965, age 86.

Some days it does seem as if the whole world is doing Pilates, if the explosive growth of “Pilates classes” in the United States is any indicator.

If you have not seen it on TV or at an athletic club, Pilates is a form of exercise and movement designed to stretch, strengthen and balance the body. Using specific exercises and focused breathing patterns, Pilates has become an important adjunct to professional sports training and physical rehabilitation programs.

And who was Joseph Pilates? Prior to the outbreak of World War I, Pilates was a performer and boxer living in England. When the war started, he was interned with other German nationals pilatespracticeand began teaching his fellow camp members the exercises he had developed during more than 20 years of self-study. It included element of yoga along with ancient Greek and Roman regimens. Thus was born the matwork program we know today as the Pilates Method, although at the time, he called it “Contrology,” because it encouraged the mind to control the body. During his internment, he improvised equipment to create resistance for the exercises, using bed springs and whatever he could scavenge. Today’s Pilates equipment still relies on spring tension, and is used in tandem with the matwork component of the program.

For an aging population, Pilates may be just the ticket for staying flexible and feeling younger. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself doing the “elephant” or “swan” one day. Pilates helps increase lung capacity and circulation through pilatesclassdeep breathing. It concentrates on the abdomen and back muscles to improve strength and flexibility. The objective is to improve posture, balance and core strength, and to strengthen the deep torso muscles that can alleviate and prevent back pain.

Now that the Pilates trademark protection has been struck down, anyone can say they offer Pilates programs. Naturally, you will want to find a certified instructor in order to get the most benefit from a Pilates program. Look for instructors who are PMA (Pilates Method Alliance) certified and don’t be shy about asking them detailed questions about their training. If they can’t answer your questions, they are not the instructor you want.

Susan Kramer, RYT200 is a certified yoga instructor (Yoga Heals) who lives in Annapolis, Maryland. She knows firsthand of the healing powers of yoga.

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