What Is Pilates? The Origins of the Exercise That Set America In Motion, and Other Facts
What is Pilates? As popular as Pilates is, many people don’t know much about the history or the mechanics behind this highly effective exercise model. At Core Fusion Pilates + Yoga, we’re in love with this innovative method, and are excited to share why it’s so powerful.
A Rich History, An Evolving Vision
Joseph Pilates founded his unique system nearly 100 years ago in 1926, and the story of his invention is nothing short of amazing.
It all started when Joe left his native home of Germany to work as a self-defense instructor for Scotland Yard in England. However, when World War I erupted, England imprisoned him, and considered him an “enemy alien” along with the other Germans.
During his internment, he began to create what would become known as Pilates exercises, or as Joe called it, “Body Contrology.” He created the truest form of Pilates first – mat exercises. Later, he hooked up springs to hospital beds as he assisted bedridden patients with resistance exercises. These crude yet effective exercises set the foundation for the future equipment and exercises of the famous system.
Early results were impressive. Although the flu epidemic claimed thousands of English citizens in 1918, not one of Joe’s students died, and he attributed this to the effectiveness of his program.
As tensions from war cooled, Joe eventually made his way to the United States with his wife, Clara. Once in New York City, they opened a Pilates studio in the city, which first attracted ballet dancers before news of his exercises spread beyond city limits.
Eventually, three of Joe’s students – Carola Trier, Bob Seed, and Ron Fletcher – set up more Pilates studios throughout the country. Fletcher, who opened up a studio in Beverly Hills, California, attracted Hollywood stars, generating major media attention to the system.
After decades of evolution, more than 10 million Americans practice Joe’s inventions today, and the popularity of his effective methods shows no sign of stopping.
What’s It Like to Do Pilates?
At Core Fusion Pilates + Yoga, we primarily focus on Contemporary Pilates, which is a version of Joe’s original concept. Designed in collaboration with physical therapists and sports medicine specialists, Stott Pilates® focuses on maintaining the natural curvature of the spine during exercising, whereas Joe focused on keeping a straight spine.
Here at Core Fusion Pilates + Yoga, we teach the following five core principles of Stott Pilates® help increase your proprioception, or awareness of how your body moves:
- Breathing – As basic as it gets, proper breathing pumps more oxygen into your blood, helping you focus on exercise and reduce tension. Inhaling and exhaling also helps your spine flex and move.
- Pelvic Placement – Placement emphasizes keeping the pelvis and lumbar spine (lower back) stable, in either a neutral or an imprinted position.
- Rib Cage Placement – Stott Pilates suggests you experience the sensation of the weight of the ribs as you lie on the mat. This imagery helps you maintain the normal curve of your back and yields maximum benefit from mat exercises.
- Scapula Movement and Stabilization – With every exercise you do, your scapulae (shoulder blades) should remain stable to offset pressure from your neck and upper shoulders. Your shoulders should also never lift too far off the mat, or compress too closely together.
- Head and Cervical Placement – The cervical spine section (or the area around your neck) should support your spine’s natural curve. Simultaneously, your head should rest directly above your shoulders in all exercise positions.