I was born in the era of leg warmers… This simple phrase for me evokes images of sit ups and butt squeezes. Yet in an era much earlier than this, Joseph Pilates was creating a form of exercise quite contradictory to the culture of tight buns and six packs. Originally termed Contrology, Joseph Pilates developed the Pilates method with the following Principles in mind: Breathing, Centring, Concentration, Control, Flow and Precision. Pilates said that “Contrology develops the body uniformly”, it is viewed as functional movement which takes the focus away from biasing certain muscles for external aesthetics and deeper into our intrinsic muscles that help support and stabilise the spine. To me, thinking about the body in this way creates a powerful shift in mind and body which is as Joseph himself intended.
Although the evolution of Pilates began in 1934, it is only recently being recognised under the allied health umbrella and holds it own among therapies such as Physiotherapy and Osteopathy. It is a form of treatment to which people are widely being referred by practitioners taking a collaborative approach to client centred health care. Pilates is complimentary in counteracting the movement (or lack of) we encounter in our day to day lives. This form of exercise helps to realign the body, alleviating aches and pains caused by faulty posture and assists in reducing stress.
My own experience of Pilates has been somewhat of a realisation, which is a horizon that continues to expand. I remember thinking once in a moment of vanity what a shame it was that I could suck my stomach in but not my thighs (has anyone else ever thought this?). Over the last few years however, I have come to the realisation that vanity is not conducive to health, hence the 80’s analogy. In fact, one of my tips for staying mentally healthy is to “exercise for sanity, not for vanity”. Also, having spent a significant amount of my adult life working in an office environment, I have felt the effects of my body unravelling. The great thing about Pilates and the malleability of the human body is that weak muscle areas such as inner thighs and abdominals can be rectified through the magic of muscle repatterning. It’s about waking up some of the muscles that have gone to ‘sleep’ through lack of use and recruiting muscles in an effective pattern to produce the most functional movement. This will result in longer, leaner muscles however the attitude towards achieving this must be more about finding a sound structure in the body.
It’s all rather exciting to me, I’m quite disappointed however that (although the 80’s were fun) Pilates wasn’t more integrated by then. I guess Joe really was 50 years ahead of his time.