What Is Pilates?

What Is Pilates?

You mention the word pilates these days and most people at the very least would have at least heard of it. It’s hard to believe that although it’s a widely accepted form of exercise now, when Pilates Plus opened in 2009, it was a still on the fringe of mainstream fitness options and a big mystery to a lot of people.

With the explosion of the pilates industry in the past few years, there's also been a big expansion in how you can experience pilates and along with that, a misconception that by participating in a class with the word pilates in it, that you are “doing pilates”.

Classical pilates, contemporary pilates, authentic pilates, mat pilates, reformer pilates, group reformer pilates, studio pilates, clinical pilates, fitness pilates and the list goes on.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter what “type” of pilates class you do, if you don’t understand or have never been taught the foundation principles and philosophy of the pilates method of exercise and movement, then you won’t be “doing pilates”, you’ll be just be doing exercises.

And if your instructor doesn’t know or understand the foundation principles and the philosophy of pilates themselves, then they will just be teaching exercises, which will give you a good workout but won’t give you the unique benefits of the pilates method.

So what is pilates?

Let’s go to the source of it all.  Joseph Pilates developed a health and fitness method in the early 20th century that he called Contrology. This is his description of what it is:

“Contrology is the complete coordination of body, mind and spirit. It develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit.”

Let’s put that in to today’s language...

Pilates is a movement method that develops awareness, body intelligence, structural integrity and strength bringing your body back in to a natural, normal state of balance.

The pilates exercises are a tool to develop the above and not an end in themselves. Just like the equipment is a tool, an amazing and clever tool but not what pilates is.

You could be doing any other form of exercise and actually be using the pilates method of movement to increase performance and decrease injury risk…while you are doing the activity.

Or, you could be doing a group pilates class and not doing pilates at all, just performing exercises to get a core strength workout.

Being able to participate in all the different styles of pilates classes is fantastic, but if you want to get the lifelong benefits of the pilates exercise method then you need to learn the foundation principles from someone who has the knowledge of what they are.

Then no matter what pilates class, or in fact any other physical activity you are doing, you will be doing them using the pilates method of movement, with increased resilience and capability.  

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