Pilates has been gaining in popularity and has become a mainstream form of exercise. In 2021, 9.75 million people participated in Pilates. According to GymCatch, Pilates class bookings increased by 25% between 2020 and 2021. It's safe to say Pilates is here to stay.
Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise that is rapidly growing in popularity.
Created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, it focuses on six principles: centering, concentration, control, precision, flow, and breathing.
Pilates can be performed on a mat or an apparatus with various props.
Pilates targets major muscle groups and stabilizes the body through your body's powerhouse. It can increase flexibility and circulation and tone your muscles.
Let's talk about what Pilates is, what a class looks like, the benefits of Pilates, and how the practice affects your body.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a low-impact exercise performed on the mat or with specialized equipment such as a reformer, chair, or Ladder Barrel. It was created to elongate and strengthen your body, restoring movement patterns and improving posture.
Who developed Pilates exercise?
Pilates was founded in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates. Growing up, he had asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. He overcame this to become a gymnast, diver, and skier.
During World War I, he worked as an orderly in a hospital with patients who could not walk. He attached springs to their hospital beds, and the first Cadillac reformer was born.
After emigrating to the United States in 1926, he opened a ‘body conditioning gym’ with his wife in New York. It quickly became popular for rehabilitation and with dancers.
Joseph Pilates based his method on three principles:
- Whole health and body commitment;
- Mind, body, and spirit.
In 1932, he published a pamphlet called "Your Health", and in 1945, a book titled "Return to Life Through Contrology". He emphasized control of your body's positions and movement. He originally called the exercise method Contrology.
After his death, his method was renamed Pilates, as we know it today.
The six principles of Pilates
There are 6 Principles of Pilates:
Each of these is imperative in a Pilates practice.
In addition to the 6 Principles, Joseph Pilates believed that all body movement emanates from your core, your body's powerhouse. Your powerhouse stretches from your pelvic floor to your ribcage.
As you strengthen your powerhouse, your core will become more stable.
So what does a Pilates class look like?
There are two types of Pilates classes - mat or apparatus.
Mat Pilates is performed on the floor utilizing your body weight or various props. These include but are not limited to the Magic Circle, the Overball, foam rollers, and resistance bands.
Pilates also has its type of mat. The Pilates mat is thicker than a yoga mat and can be larger. The extra cushion will support the spine in rolling exercises.
Apparatus Pilates classes use equipment such as the Reformer, the Pilates Chair, or Ladder Barrel. The Pilates reformer consists of resistance springs, foot bars, and straps. The Cadillac is a reformer with a metal frame. These are also called Trapeze Tables.
The Pilates Chair is also called a Wunda Chair. This is a box with a padded seat and a pedal with springs. The Ladder Barrel is a padded barrel with a wooden ladder attached.
The workout will focus more on muscle toning than muscle building, regardless of which type you prefer. It will specifically target your core, sides, back, and hips.
Pilates isolates and relaxes your muscle groups while strengthening your control and breath.
Benefits of Pilates
Pilates targets specific muscle groups to re-educate your movement patterns. This will rebalance your body's muscular and structural systems. Practicing Pilates improves your circulation and balance.
Pilates can increase your flexibility, tone your muscles and increase your strength. Note that Pilates should be used for more than just weight loss. It will tone your muscles, not build them.
How Pilates affects your body
Pilates can correct muscle imbalances. This makes it an excellent option for rehabilitation after an injury. Consult your medical team for the proper course of action for your specific injury and body.
Pilates can also improve your posture, so you walk taller with a straighter spine. This is particularly important if you suffer from lower back pain.
Lower back pain typically comes from body misalignment and weakness. Pilates can correct this while providing you with more body awareness. This will make you more aware of how your body works and how to prevent future issues.
Pilates is an exercise method that has been gaining popularity in the United States. Created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, Pilates was built on six principles: centering, concentration, control, precision, flow, and breathing.
Pilates has numerous benefits, from increased flexibility to muscle tone and circulation. Pilates can correct muscle imbalances, improve posture, and create more body awareness. Knowing how your body works can help prevent future injuries.
In short, to quote Joseph Pilates himself, "Above all, learn how to breathe correctly".
- Statista. Number of pilates participants in the United States from 2010 to 2021.
- Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Defining Pilates exercise: A systematic review.
- Cleveland Clinic. Everything You Want to Know About Pilates.
- NIH. Pilates: how does it work and who needs it?
- Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. Pilates and the “powerhouse”—I.