Pilates (pronounced “pee – la – tays” ) is a technique that was pioneered in the 1930s by Joseph Pilates, a German who was involved in numerous sports. He combined techniques used in martial arts and gymnastics to produce his own training technique. The technique involves mental and physical training and aims to develop deep postural muscles. By improving the functioning of these muscles, the individual has what is known as ‘core stability’. This means that the postural muscles are doing their job effectively, thus improving posture and control of movement.
Pilates has been used in people who suffer from back pain, osteoarthritis and posture-related pain. It is also used extensively by dancers, cricketers and Olympic athletes in an effort to improve movement control and prevent injury. However, because the techniques are progressive it is also an appropriate form of exercise for beginners.
The exercises are done in a slow and controlled manner, which the aim of targeting specific muscles that improve posture. There are a number of key principles behind the exercises:
- body alignment
- core stability
- breathing control
- smoothness of movement
Breathing techniques are taught and relaxation is essential. Those who practise Pilates are taught to recognize their postural alignment in the spine and pelvis, and to correct any abnormalities. The use of the wrong muscles is discouraged and core stability is slowly mastered. Once posture and core stability are present, more movements are added and then progressed. The techniques are started on mats, with more advanced exercises making use of specialist equipment.