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What is Pilates?

The Pilates method was developed by Joseph Pilates as a holistic exercise regime to strengthen your deep lying muscles.
The training encompasses strengthening exercises as well as stretching and focused breathing and can be carried out on the mat or on specially developed Pilates machines.
The goal is to strengthen muscles, improve stamina and co-ordination as well as posture, activate and improve circulation as well as gaining better all-round body awareness.
  • The principle/basis of -Pilates-
    The Term Pilates Principles was first introduced in 1980, in the Book: The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning. Joseph Pilates himself never used the term Principles with regards to the Pilates Method. The “Principles”, as a concept, were extrapolated from his work at a later stage. The six principles have also been mentioned in other books about and relating to Pilates.

    The six Principles that Friedman and Eichen describe are:
    > Concentration
    > Centering
    > Control
    > Breathing
    > Precision
    > Flowing movement

    Additional Principles were introduced to this list at later stages. Here is a description of the most important Principles:


    The most important principle of Pilates is carrying out all exercises and movements in a controlled manner. Thereby strengthening the smaller,“intrinsic muscles”, not always used in day-to-day life.
    Concentration helps to connect body and mind and bring about balance. Every movement should be controlled with the mind and focus should be placed on working the body as a” whole”.
    Being conscious of your breathing plays an important role in Pilates. Breathing should alleviate tension and increase the control over your body. For this reason we practice breathing from the diaphragm.
    Centering means strengthening the center of your body, the so called Powerhouse, that reaches from your ribs to your pelvis and encases all the important organs. Strengthening your Powerhouse means stabilizing muscles and strengthening your back. The Pilates Method can have a positive affect on back problems and can alleviate back pain.
    Conscious relaxation helps to become aware of tension in the body and can help alleviate tension. Relaxation in Pilates , however, does not mean the opposite of an engaged and active body.
    Flowing movement
    All exercises are to be carried out in a fluid manner, without long interruptions. There are no abrupt, isolated movements in this work.
    Power Engine or Powerhouse
    The Term “Power Engine” stems from Moshe Feldenkrais. Power Engine describes a muscular network, that provides the basic stability and control in the lumbar-pelvic region. It comprises of the pelvic floor muscle, transversus,multifidus,diaphragm,the muscles of the inner thigh and the muscles around the sitting bones. The Power Engine is activated when you bring your navel to spine, in a “zipper-like-motion” from the pubic bone to the sternum. This creates a concave form or “scoop” effect and activates the deep abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor muscles (the deep muscle corset). In this manner, the Heels of the feet, back of the inner thighs, the deep muscles of the lower back and the muscles around the sitting bones are activated without affecting the natural action of breathing which can lead to tension of the upper chest area or holding ones breath. The Power Engine not only offers support and stability in the lumbar-pelvic region, it also has the ability to transfer the center of gravity of the body to it’s highest and most effective position, for example: in a seated posture it lifts the upper body upwards and away from the pelvis. In a standing Position it brings about a two-directional pull and reduces weight bearing in the upper body. The same thing occurs in a lying position. The “Power Engine” opens the vertical plane of the body in two directions: It grounds the Pelvis to the earth and lengthens the spine to the sky in the same way the roots of a tree are grounded in the soil and the trunk of a tree grows upwards towards the sky.
    Posterior lateral Breathing
    Posterior lateral breathing facilitates the basal expansion of the ribs. In order to master this type of breathing one must learn how to expand and widen the ribs followed by softening the ribs and letting go, without using active breathing to help this process. The inhalation and exhalation come about i.e are a direct result of the expansion and letting go of the ribs. This can be facilitated by placing your hands on and around the lower ribs so that your thumbs rest on the back ribs. Relax the top of your abdomen and begin to widen and expand your ribs to both sides. At the same time softly apply pressure with your hands against your ribs to build up some resistance. Now let go by softening and “melting” the area of your collar bones and sternum downwards. You can also carry out this exercise with a hand towel, by wrapping it around the lower rib cage. You won’t succeed in stretching the ribs effectively if the abdominal muscles are engaged and neither will you be able to release the ribs if they weren't expanded and stretched effectively to begin with. Repeat this exercise but this time focus on the inhalation and the exhalation. Inhalation widens the ribs laterally, posteriorly and superiorly in a 60:30:10 ratio, if the movement is led by the breath and without force. Furthermore the action of inhalation mostly feels like it is occurring in the region of the back. Exhalation happens gradually, through a slow release of tension in the upper chest and sternum area, without collapsing the frontal ribs and ends with the engaging of the “Power Engine”.

    • Herausgeber: Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie.

Who is Joseph Pilates?

By KPilates (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Joseph H Pilates was born in 1883 in Gladbach. At the outbreak of the WW1, Pilates was working in England as a circus artist and boxer. He was imprisoned and sent to an internment camp because of his German nationality. It was during this time that he developed his floor routines and exercises that we have come to know as Pilates matwork today. His creativity and invention came about through sheer necessity.In these limited conditions he could only use what was in front of him. He converted bed springs and rings from beer barrels into exercise apparatuses which provided effective “resistance”training.

After the war, Pilates returned to Germany and went to Hamburg in order to collaborate with the most respected bodywork practitioners of the time. He developed a very close working relationship with Rudolf Laban, a visionary in all things relating to movement, the body and modern dance. Pilates also used his Method to train the Hamburg police force.But in 1925 he packed his suitcase and boarded a boat bound for New York. It is on this journey that he met Clara, a nurse, who would become his wife. In 1926 Pilates opened his first studio in New York City. Clara, his wife worked closely with him in developing his exercises, creating assistance tools known as “small props” and teaching his students.
As a sickly child, Pilates showed great initiative in researching and experimenting with all kinds of exercise methods to help strengthen himself. Later on Pilates discovered eastern practices such as Yoga and Zen Buddhism. He was also very inspired by the greek ideology whereby man can only achieve perfection by developing mind, body and spirit as one.
Pilates also studied anatomy and worked as a bodybuilder,gymnast,boxer,skier and diver. All of these skills and activities helped form and shape the Pilates Method that we know today.

Pilates carried on teaching and sharing his unique method with people until 1966. Over a period of 20 Years he taught a huge variety of students who not only applied his work to their professional and everyday lives, but also went on to become pilates teachers themselves. Joseph Pilates’ studio was located in a neighbourhood in New York City which was home to numerous dance studios and dance companies alike. Many dancers and celebrities embraced the Pilates Method and credited the Method in enabling them to gain strength, flexibility and elegance, it also proved hugely effective in helping individuals recover from injury.

It was primarily professional dancers and athletes that kept Pilates’ work alive. So it wasn’t until the 1980’s, when the medical world finally began to show an interest in Pilates and confirmed it’s effectiveness, that it spread to the mainstream. The first generation of teachers who learned directly under Joseph Pilates are often called the “Pilates Elders”. Some of them believe in communicating and teaching Pilates’ work in exactly the same way that it was taught to them- today this is known as “Classical Pilates”. Others chose to integrate their own experiences and styles into their bodywork and created other variations of the Pilates Method.

Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 87. Up until the end of his days he maintained a fit and healthy physique. It was also said that he had quite a headstrong personality; he smoked cigars, loved parties and wore his gym shorts wherever and whenever he felt like it. Clara, his wife, continued teaching the Pilates Method after his passing and carried on with the running of the studio for another decade.

Joseph Pilates named his work “ Contrology”. He defined his Method as a holistic integration of body,mind and spirit.
KPilates (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
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