The truth is Pilates demands intense focus: "You have to concentrate on what you´re doing. All the time. And you must concentrate on your entire body". This is not easy, but in this it's the way that exercises are done is more important than the exercises themselves.
In 2006, at the Parkinson Center of the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, the concentration factor of the Pilates method was being studied in providing relief from the degenerative symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
This form of exercising was developed by Joseph Pilates, he developed this system of exercises during the first half of the 20th century which was intended to strengthen the human mind and body.
He believed that mental and physical health are inter-related.
"Contrology" was his preferred name for his method and it is based on the idea of muscle control. "Nothing about this Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment"
All exercises are done with control with the muscles working to lift against gravity and the resistance of the springs and thereby control the movement of the body and the apparatus. "This Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy".
It was developed by Joseph Pilates, he developed this system of exercises during the first half of the 20th century which was intended to strengthen the human mind and body.
He believed that mental and physical health are inter-related.
He published two books in his lifetime which related to his training method: Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education (1934) and Return to Life through Contrology (1945).
The method was originally confined to the few and normally practiced in a specialized studio, but with time this has changed and pilates can now be found in community centers, gyms and physiotherapy rooms as well as in hybrid practice such as yogilates and in newly developed forms such as the Menezes Method.
This method seeks to develop controlled movement from a strong core and it does this using a range of apparatuses to guide and train the body. He originally developed his method as mat exercises (his 1945 "Return to Life" teaches 34 of these), but, in common with many other physical culture systems from the first part of the twentieth century, he used several pieces of apparatus to help people "get the method in their bodies".
Using springs results in "progressive resistance", meaning the resistance increases as the spring is stretched. The most widely used piece of apparatus, and probably the most important, is the Reformer, but other apparatus used in a traditional Pilates studio include the Cadillac (also called the Trapeze Table), the high (or electric) chair, the Wunda Chair, the baby Chair, and the Ladder Barrel, the Spine Corrector (Step Barrel) and small barrel. Lesser used apparatus includes the Magic Circle, Guillotine Tower, the Pedi-Pole, and the Foot Corrector.
Nowadays other props are used, including small weighted balls, foam rollers, large exercise balls,rotating disks, and resistance bands. Some of the traditional apparatuses have been adapted for use in contemporary pilates (e.g. splitting the pedal on the wunda chair). Some contemporary schools, such as the British Body Control, work primarily on the mat with these smaller props, enabling people to study the method without a full studio.
Principles of Pilates
In order to attain control of your body you must have a starting place: the center. The center is the focal point of this Method.
Many teachers refer to the group of muscles in the center of the body – encompassing the abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks and inner thighs – the “powerhouse."
All movement in Pilates should begin from the powerhouse and flow outward to the limbs. Flow or efficiency of movement
It aims for elegant sufficiency of movement, creating flow through the use of appropriate transitions. Once precision has been achieved, the exercises are intended to flow within and into each other in order to build strength and stamina. In other words, this technique asserts that physical energy exerted from the center should coordinate movements of the extremities: This is flowing movement outward from a strong core.
Precision is essential to correct pilates: "concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value".
The focus is on doing one precise and perfect movement, rather than many halfhearted ones. It is here reflecting common physical culture wisdom: "You will gain more strength from a few energetic, concentrated efforts that from a thousand listless, sluggish movements".
The goal is for this precision to eventually become second nature, and carry over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.
Breathing is important in this method. In Return to Life, it devotes a section of his introduction specifically to breathing "Bodily house-cleaning with blood circulation"
He saw considerable value in increasing the intake of oxygen and the circulation of this oxygenated blood to every part of the body. This he saw as cleansing and invigorating. Proper full inhalation and complete exhalation were key to this. "Pilates saw forced exhalation as the key to full inhalation."
He advised people to squeeze out the lungs as you would wring a wet towel dry.
In exercises, you breathe in with the effort and out on the return.
In order to keep the lower abdominals close to the spine; the breathing needs to be directed laterally, into the lower ribcage. Pilates breathing is described as a posterior lateral breathing, meaning that the practitioner is instructed to breathe deep into the back and sides of his or her rib cage. When practitioners exhale, they are instructed to note the engagement of their deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and maintain this engagement as they inhale. It attempts to properly coordinate this breathing practice with movement, including breathing instructions with every exercise. “Above all, learn to breathe correctly.”
During pregnancy has been claimed to be a highly valuable and beneficial form of exercise, but the use of this in pregnancy should only be undertaken under guidance of a fully trained expert.
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