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Pilates

What is Pilates?

Its origins lie with German-born Joseph Pilates. Born near Dusseldorf in 1880, Joseph Pilates suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever as a child, and pioneered his Pilates techniques in the 1920’s because of his desire to overcome these ailments. Combining both Western and Eastern forms of exercise (including yoga, zen and ancient Greek and Roman regimens), he developed his own exercise philosophy.

During World War 1, whilst treating wounded soldiers, he designed a series of hooks and springs attached to a hospital bed that helped patients regain strength and movement.
It was through this experience that he discovered the importance of training the abdominals and back muscles because their stabilising effect on the torso enables the entire body to move more freely.

Pilates immigrated to the United States in 1926 to open a Pilates studio in New York. This led to many actors, dancers and athletes flocking to his clinic to heal and re-align their bodies.

Pilates has been around for almost a century, but its popularity has recently surged. Over the past 10-15 years research has shown that one of the lower abdominals (known as the transversus abdominus) is the main muscle that both supports the lower back and aids in correcting bad posture.

Coincidentally, Pilates has been shown to facilitate this muscle. It is via the training of this muscle that Pilates can prevent and alleviate common back conditions such as disc bulges and sciatica. When exercising using Pilates’ principles, the outcome is better posture, stronger and more flexible muscles, greater energy and an increased ability to cope with day-to-day stresses.

The Pilates way of exercising involves starting from basic awareness of your posture, movement and breathing. All the exercises focus on a strong body centre using a precise control of leg and arm movements on the stabilised core. The following are the Eight Basic Principles of Pilates:

  • Concentration - Pilates exercises initially require rather intense concentration because muscles are being used in an unfamiliar way.

  • Precision - for more graceful, controlled movement and improved balance.

  • Breathing - this is very important for supplying the body with oxygen and in eliminating body wastes (eg CO2).

  • Isolation - of weaker muscles to work them harder.

  • Centering - Pilates exercises rely on the use and control of abdominal muscles.

  • Routine - regular practice achieves maximum gain.

  • Control - to avoid reverting back to old habitual patterns.

  • Planning - to eliminate stiff, jerky movement.

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