Pilates is increasingly popular because it has been proven to help a huge range of ailments and conditions, from general complaints such as back pain and joint stiffness to osteoporosis, MS and Parkinson's, through to pregnancy and post-partum fitness. It is used by sportsmen and -women for injury prevention and rehabilitation, as well as by many dancers in order to build stamina.
Pilates, originally called Contrology – ‘the complete co-ordination of body, mind and spirit’, was devised by Joseph Pilates around the beginning of the 20th century. Pilates himself was born in 1883 in Germany, the only child of a naturopath mother and prize-winning gymnast father. He was a sickly child, suffering from asthma, rheumatic fever and rickets. From an early age, he devoted his time to improving his physical condition, and his experimentation with different approaches to fitness and training led him to cherry-pick the most effective aspects of each discipline, from yoga, gymnastics, skiing, self defense, dance, circus training and weight training. With this knowledge, he devised a complete system of exercise with the perfect balance of strength and flexibility that is today known as Pilates.
Due to Joseph Pilates, the discipline itself endures to this day, not only for dancers and sportspeople but for anyone who wants to counteract the physical irregularities of modern day-to-day life by focusing attention on correct movement and particularly their core muscles – alignment, breathing and centring being the three fundamental principles. The Pilates discipline is regularly practised by around 11 million people worldwide, and, as well as helping with a wide range of difficulties, it is fantastic in promoting optimal health and well-being.
‘Finding the time’ is the biggest challenge in this quick-fix age, but a minimum of one class a week (or even better, classes plus practice at home) will bring you a great deal of positive change, and put something refreshing, strengthening and empowering back into your hardworking body, and mind!