Pilates, «puh LAH teez», is one of the most popular methods of physical fitness training worldwide. The Pilates method uses a series of more than 500 different exercises designed to increase flexibility, strength, and coordination.
Joseph H. Pilates, a German physical trainer, developed the exercises in the 1920’s. Pilates was sickly as a child and dedicated his life to developing his body through gymnastics, skiing, boxing, and diving. He developed his own exercise system and equipment. He combined Asian methods, such as yoga, which emphasize stretching and controlled breathing, with European exercise techniques, which emphasize muscle strength, motion, and activity. Pilates designed a series of movements that involve both the mind and the body. He based his training method on six key principles: (1) concentration, (2) centering, (3) control, (4) precision, (5) breath, and (6) flow of movement.
In Pilates exercises, the abdominal muscles, lower back, and buttocks serve as the center of all movement, allowing the rest of the body to move freely. People usually perform Pilates exercises on a mat or with specially designed apparatus, under supervision by certified instructors. Exercisers perform the movements with fluid precision, focusing on the quality of each movement performed rather than the number of repetitions.
Pilates is suitable for people at all fitness levels. The exercises can help improve flexibility, posture, balance, and coordination. Pilates can also help relieve stress and lower back pain, promote better sleep, and develop breath control and body awareness. Many people also find that their energy level dramatically increases. However, people who wish to practice Pilates should consult with their physician before starting a vigorous program of exercise.