‘If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, then you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.’ (Joseph. H. Pilates, ‘Return to Life Through Contrology’ 1945)
Joseph Pilates designed his revolutionary system of exercises after years of study on his own body and that of his clients. Since he opened the very first studio in New York in 1926, Pilates has spread across the USA, with it popularity growing to the point where it is now practiced by over 10 million Americans. For that reason I chose to undertake all my Pilates Teacher training in the USA some years ago; and what was not only a revelation, but an inspiration were the amount of seventy (plus) year olds coming into the Pilates studio who were able to perform the sort of acrobatic athleticism you couldn’t imagine the average 30 year old doing over here. Their bodies were supple, strong, and lean, and that’s when you realise that Pilates really is something special. It’s not just for the fit, or the young, it works for everybody. But what is it? And why does it work?
Pilates can be undertaken either as matwork exercises, or on specially designed Pilates apparatus. It works on the principle of conditioning the whole body, starting with building strong core muscles. The core is often mistakenly associated with a toned ‘six-pack’ but this is just one muscle with a limited function; the core is in fact a large group of muscles that support and connect to the major structures of the skeleton- your pelvis, shoulders, rib cage and spine. When these muscles contract they stabilise the whole torso enabling your body to generate a strong base of support from which movements can be made. At the simplest level they allow you to stand up and walk; at the other end of the spectrum they can help a sportsperson increase power, strength and athletic performance. But most importantly a strong core protects the back.
Joseph Pilates invented his 600 plus exercises to target these vital stabilising muscles, and his system is unique for that reason. It’s often referred to as ‘intelligent exercise’ because the different movements you learn will take thought, concentration and application to master, with an instructor like myself modifying them to suit you and your lifestyle. Hence the legions of fans from Pippa Middleton, Liz Hurley, David and Victoria Beckham, Andy Murray and the London Welsh Rugby team.
Why not try it for yourself and see what it can do for you?
© Rachel Lawrence. All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.