The Joseph Pilates Exercise Method
Now that we have a glimpse into the incredible human machine it is a good question to ask, why exercise? Just like your motor vehicle you use every day to transport you from one place to another so our human vehicle transports us through life’s journey. If you don’t put the right fuel into your motor vehicle, check the oil, change the spark plugs from time to time your expensive luxury vehicle will leave you stranded next to the road side sooner or later. Unfortunately this can happen to our human machine as well. We are careless to fill it with optimum fuel, we don’t move our muscles to keep them strong and flexible and when our skeleton which gives us our shape fail to keep its form, the “spark plugs” in our life loses its spark!!
At the turn of the century we were in the industrial age. People in general did much more physical work and had to use their human machines more actively in their daily duties which were a good thing. As we moved into the technology age 8 hours per day we slump over an office desk and computer. Drive home in our motor vehicle and then flop onto our couch for an evening of television entertainment. No more playing ball with the kids on the lawn or taking the dogs for a brisk walk down to the park.
But as the world around us changes so does the fitness industry and carries on to do so. There are a great number of different varieties of exercises for all shapes, sizes and age groups. From body building, lifting of heavy weights, which stood the test of times to the latest crazes that is now flourishing in the studio’s worldwide.
Joseph Pilates was born on the 9th of December 1892 in Germany. As a child he was sickly. Riddled with asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever he soon realised that his human machines’ internal combustion systems were running only on one piston. He decided to do something about it and so he embarked on a physical fitness journey to strengthen his body that subsequently took him from nobody to one of the most recognised names in the body fitness industry to date. What sets his method of exercise apart from the rest is that he concentrates on strengthening the core muscles and breathing technic. Pilates came to the conclusion that the “modern” life-style, bad posture and insufficient oxygen due to bad breathing lay at the roots of poor health. He ultimately developed a series of exercises, training-techniques and engineered all the equipment required to teach his method. Being a professional boxer and working for the British intelligence and Scotland Yard, training the police force in self-defence technics successfully, he in 1925 immigrated to the United States of America and settle in the big apple. On the ship to America he met his future wife Clara.
The couple founded a studio in New York. There they taught and supervised their students well into the 1960s. His method which he and Clara originally called “Contrology”, related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles. It focuses attention on core postural muscles that help keep the human body balanced and provide support for the spine. In particular, the Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine, and strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles. They soon established a devoted following in the local dance and performing-arts community of New York. Well known dancers became devotees and regularly sent their students to the Pilates couple for training and rehabilitation. His exercise regimen built flexibility, strength and stamina. When it became known that ballerinas were attending the Pilates gym on 8th Avenue, society women followed. To date the Pilates studio is still open and operating and is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the big apple. Joseph passed away in New York at the ripe old age of 83 in 1967. The fact that he managed to get all his human machine pistons humming allowed him to live a full, healthy, happy and adventurous life. He leaves a legacy behind that unfortunately he could not have fathomed the impact and influence his exercise method would have on millions of people all over the world.
Pilates is currently one of the fastest growing fitness methods of training in the world. Not only is it used in sport centres and gyms but also in Physiotherapist rooms for rehabilitation purposes. One of Pilates’ own quotes: “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”
There is another saying: If you don’t use it, you lose it! That rings true when it comes to your incredible human machine. Just like a motor vehicle, if you let it stand for a couple of months or years in the garage unused and then decide to take it for a spin, you will not be able to start it on the first attempt. There would be a lot of degrading in the tyres and engine that would need to be replaced. But unfortunately for our human machine, replacing body parts isn’t always an option. We should therefor cherish what we have and use it wisely. Fill it with optimum healthy fuel (food), and exercise to keep our bodies healthy, strong and flexible, have a joyful soul and a sound mind.
I leave you with these words on your lips: Pilates is 4 Me – Let the change begin!