The Pilates method seeks to develop controlled movement from a strong core to train the body. Pilates originally developed his method as mat exercises (his 1945 Return to Life teaches 34 of these), but, he used several pieces of apparatus to help people "get the method in their bodies".
In contemporary Pilates props are used, including small weighted balls, foam rollers, gym balls rotating disks, and resistance bands.
Some contemporary schools work primarily on the mat with these smaller props, enabling people to use the method without bulky equipment.
Principles of Pilates
Concentration - The correct execution of each movement is more important than the number of repetitions. Awareness of the body comes from concentration.
Control - Every aspect of every movement in Pilates is controlled. Stabilising the body against gravity while mobilising joints through full range of motion in a defined sequence.
Centering - All movement in Pilates should begin from the centre and flow outward to the limbs. Sometimes called the core, the muscles that stabilise the lumbar spine and the pelvis are called the Powerhouse in Pilates
Flow - Pilates aims for efficiency of movement, creating flow through the use of sequential transitions. With precision the exercises flow within and into each other developing strength and stamina. Commencing in the centre, muscle activation flows to the extremities: Pilates is movement flowing outward from a strong core.
Precision - Concentration on the correct movements for each repetition gives the full benefit of the exercise. The goal is for this precision to become second nature, and carry over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.
Breathing - In Pilates exercises, you breathe out with the effort and in on the return. In order to keep the lower abdominals close to the spine; the breath is directed into the back and sides of the rib cage. Each breath engages the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Pilates attempts to properly coordinate this breathing with movement.
Pilates emphasizes the concepts of core strength and stabilization. Your "powerhouse" is the center of your body or your core and if strengthened, it offers a solid foundation for any movement. This is a muscular network which provides the basic control and stability in the lumbopelvic regiion.
The spine is made up of a complex chain of ligaments, fascia, bone, muscles and inter-vertebral discs which is required to be both stable and flexible. The natural curves of the spine are interdependent and whilst each curve supports the other, any deviation can also affect the other.
In Pilates the aim throughout most stabilising exercises is to maintain these natural curves and create a neutral position for each joint that is close to its optimal alignment. In this neutral position the deep postural muscles of the spine can be recruited effectively, stabilising each vertebrae in alignment to reduce stress on the spinal tissues and inter-vertebral discs.
History Of Pilates
Originated by Joseph Pilates. Born in Germany in 1883, he developed a system of exercises during the first half of the 20th century which were intended to strengthen the mind and body as he believed that mental and physical health are inter-related.
Pilates published two books which related to his training method: Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education (1934) and Return to Life through Contrology (1945).