By: Benjamin Cole
Few gyms in Lane County offer the variety of classes that we do at Evolve Fit Studios. One of our most popular classes week in and week out is pilates, a mind-body practice intent on strengthening your core, spine, and improving overall fitness and posture.
This week's evolve blog explores the origins of pilates, its primary principles, and what makes it such a potent mind-body practice. If you haven't already, be sure to check out our original post on what a mind-body practice is, and if you're curious, the first part of this three part series on mind-body practices.
Where did pilates come from?
Pilates originates from Germany in the early 20th century, having been founded by none other than Joseph Pilates himself. Joseph suffered from a myriad of physical and immune illnesses as a child, but having a father that was a gymnast and a mother as a naturopath it seems revolutionizing physical fitness was in his cards.
Despite being one of the newest mind-body practices, pilates is one of the most effective at reforming the body and mind. Joseph actually formulated many of the principles of pilates while in an internment camp during WWI, where he studied the foundations of animal movement, anatomy and yoga and taught the methods to his comrades.
What does pilates do for the body and mind?
Originally, Joseph called what's now known as pilates "contrology" due to the physical demands of the fitness system. It's 'core intention' is to teach people a deep mind-muscle connection with their stabilizing muscles like the abdominals and erector spinae. Any session with a reformer and you will quickly learn how out of sync most of us are with our core and stabilizing muscles. Pilates seeks to 'reform' this connection and control.
Joseph studied animal movement and anatomy and felt that their fluidity in movement could be emulated in the human body and sought to distill this in his methodology. The modernization of society left many people in the early 20th century with bodily ailments of all of kinds and the lack of awareness in physical fitness left many with undiagnosed postural distortions, with Joseph wanted to correct with his new 'contrology.'
Joseph Pilates motto was “Mens sana in corpore sano,” meaning “A sane mind in a sound body." He dearly believed that the health of the human body followed that of the mind and vice versa. His elevation from a sickly boy with rickets and asthma to a legendary figure in fitness history is proof in itself!
What are pilates principles?
Unlike yoga, which has culturally embedded principles intertwined with religious significance, pilates does not have any hard set principles laid out by the founder. Practitioners will learn, however, that this does not mean that pilates is not without principles. To become sufficient in pilates the practice requires that one is principled in their approach and must take seriously the following:
Even deeper, pilates as a mind-body practice is different from others in that the practitioner uses equipment to form them self to and against. Whereas yoga uses a mat or occasionally balls and blocks, pilates is done with equipment like the cadillac reformer pictured above or the more common pilates reformer. These machines are deceptively difficult for those new to the practice, but can one quickly adapt to its demands.
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