The Pilates Method is a physical fitness system which was developed in the early 20th century by German-American Joseph PilatesJoseph Pilates called the method The Art of Contrology , which refers to the way the method encourages the use of the mind to control the muscles. In World War I Joseph Pilates served as a medic for the German forces, and was investigating ways that soldiers could rehabilitate themselves while being bed ridden. Thus the creation of a series of movements that could be done in this position was created. The Pilates Reformer is based on this concept, and one will note the militaristic movements throughout pilates.

Because Joseph Pilates was a frail boy, he was obsessed by exercises he thought might make him healthier and stronger. While working in a British internment camp during World War I, Pilates developed exercises for bedridden inmates and designed an exercise apparatus using a modified hospital bed and springs – which later formed the foundation for his style of body conditioning and exercise apparatuses. When he brought his inventions to New York, dancers and professional athletes began to practice his techniques in earnest. Over time it came to Hollywood and today is practiced by such well-known celebrities as Julia Roberts, Fran Drescher, Uma Thurman and Jody Foster.

Instead of performing many repetitions of each exercise, Joseph H. Pilates preferred fewer, more precise movements, requiring proper control and form. He designed more than 500 specific exercises. The most frequent form, called “matwork”, involves a series of calisthenic motions performed without weight or apparatus on a padded mat. Pilates also designed five major pieces of unique exercise equipment that can be optionally used. In all forms, the “powerhouse” (abdomen, lower back, and buttocks) is supported and strengthened, enabling the rest of the body to move freely.

In terms of physical exercise Pilates exercise resembles yoga but without the spiritual element. As with yoga, the human body itself is used as “weights” in training, to build strength, and flexibility is targeted, without a focus on high-powered cardiovascular exercise. It was originally used to bring injured dancers back to full fitness, the idea being more to build bodily co-ordination and flexibility than stamina or muscle strength.

It has been used to train dancers in flexibility and physical strength . In recent years it has become a popular fitness modality. It has also been combined with yoga to form Yogilates .

Benefits of Pilates:

  • Slenderizes the thighs and helps the body “defy” gravity.

  • Participants say they leave the studio feeling energized, not tired; centered, not scattered.

  • Sessions are personalized, it’s recommended that the practitioner take two individual sessions and one group MAT class each week.

  • It corrects known underlying flexibility imbalances, and by having normal flexibility around the joints, practitioners are less likely to pull a muscle.

  • Another advantage Pilates offers is that people with painful physical conditions can still participate in and benefit from the exercises. Physical therapists are using the Pilates Method to rehabilitate people with arthritis, osteoporosis and other conditions.

    “We should recognize the mental functions of the mind and the physical limitations of the body so that complete coordination between them may be achieved.” – Joseph H. Pilates

The first official Pilates Studio was opened in New York in 1926 .