Though not widely known, Pilates is basically a physical fitness system or a series of exercises developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Several advocators of Pilates claim that this physical fitness system has helped to improve suppleness, posture as well as abdominal strength, while lessening back, neck, and joint pains.

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Interestingly, Joseph Pilates was a feeble and unhealthy child. Nevertheless, he was determined to reinforce his body and make it healthy. Consequently, he evolved some exercises that facilitated improvement of his health. It is said that Pilates was influenced by yoga, exercises of the ancient Greeks and Romans as well as the Zen philosophy, which he incorporated in the series of exercises developed by him.

During his internship for the WWI in England, Pilates introduced the series of exercises developed by him to different German nationals who were also undergoing internship along with him. As a result, performing the exercises helped all these people not only to preserve their strength, but also prevent ailments. While teaching his newly evolved exercises to different internees, Pilates also developed some new mat exercises or movements for floor. During his stay at the internment camp, Pilates began experimenting with different types of equipment and also made some using the bed springs. The new apparatus was excellent for enhancing the body's resistance powers and, at the same time, was ideal for the exercises developed by him.

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Incidentally, the exercises Pilates taught the inmates of the internment camp during the WWI eventually became the base for what we know today as the popular Pilates movement. Basically, the Pilates movement is a sequence of workouts meant for improving strength as well as flexibility by means of various balancing and stretching movements.

During the 1920s, Joseph Pilates became a physical trainer and introduced the Pilates movement to the Americans as a means to help wounded athletes as well as dancers to perform the exercises safely and preserve their fitness. Following this, he adapted the Pilates movement to make it suitable for the common people of the community.

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The Pilates movement is particularly beneficial for dancers, as the series of workouts helps in making their body more flexible without increasing the volume of muscles. In fact, these exercises are also recommended for athletes, models and other celebrities. Apart from augmenting body flexibility, Pilates also helps in enhancing posture and preventing injuries. Practising these workouts makes the body stronger, while keeping it in good shape inside out. People who practice Pilates claim that it not only benefits their body, but also the mind. Many of them say that they experience that practicing these workouts regularly opens the mind and expands it. Similar to yoga, Pilates also helps to alleviate anxiety and stress.

Several chiropractors (people who practice the therapy involving the spine and nerves) suggest performing the Pilates workouts to make their spine and back stronger. When one undertakes regular Pilates' regimen, he/ she will probably experience enhanced mobility of their joints, augmented circulation, thinner waist and thighs, as well as flatter stomach.

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Since the workouts involving Pilates are mild and do not entail much muscular stress or plenty of bouncing around, it is advocated for people trying to recuperate via physical therapy. In addition, these workouts are also deemed to be beneficial for the elderly as well as those who are overweight, as they do not involve any lifting or jumping. People suffering from arthritis also find Pilates beneficial, because these workouts facilitate in reducing muscle stiffness. As Pilates helps to improve posture, it is effective in preventing some conditions like osteoporosis.

These are believed to be ideal workouts for women, as Pilates has been found to help women get back to their original shape following pregnancy. This is because these workouts help to strengthen as well as shape the muscles in the region of the abdomen. Many people find Pilates to be an excellent "head-to-toe" exercise, because it not only enhances the body, but also improves the mental condition. Hence, it is not surprising that Pilates has been the favourite workout for numerous dancers, actors and athletes for several years.

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The series of exercises developed by Joseph Pilates can be both - aerobic as well as non-aerobic. Performing these workouts necessitates lots of concentration and focus, as one puts his/ her body in motion through specific movement ranges. Pilates stretches as well as lengthens all the vital muscle groups in the body in a very even-handed manner. One requires concentration to locate a center point that will be controlling the entire body during all the movements. Every workout of Pilate has a recommended placement, breathing pattern as well as rhythm.

Pilates involves mild exercises and so when one performs them, none of their muscles are worked so much that they become exhausted. Hence, one does not sweat while performing the workouts. Instead, they require strong concentration. Workouts involving Pilates comprise a various range of exercise series that are undertaken in low repetitions, generally anything between five and ten times over sessions lasting about 45 minutes to 90 minutes each. For performing Pilates, one would require mats and specific apparatus for resistance.

Pilates workouts are not taught randomly, meaning that specific exercises are taught to particular people depending on their requirements and suitability. In addition, these workouts are re-evaluated on a regular basis with a view to ascertain that they are most suited for a particular person. As specific workouts are meant for specific individuals, Pilates can be suitable for everyone ranging from top class athletes to people whose mobility is restricted, to pregnant women as well as those having poor levels of fitness.

Basically, there are two types of Pilates - the mat-based Pilates and the equipment-based Pilates.

Mat-based Pilates: As the name suggests, exercises of this physical fitness system are performed on the ground or floor making use of gravity as well as one's body weight with a view to build resistance. The key objective of this series of exercises is to build up the body's deeper, sustaining muscles with a view to enhance the balance, posture as well as coordination.

Equipment-based Pilates: This series of exercises developed by Joseph Pilates involve particular equipment that operates against the spring-loaded resistance, counting the "reformer" - a transportable carriage which is pushed and pulled the length of its tracks. There are different types of Pilates' weights, for instance dumbbells. In addition, there are a number of different small apparatus, which offer resistance to your muscles.

Health benefits of Pilates

Pilates offers several health benefits, such as enhanced flexibility, better posture, and superior concentration, augmented alertness of the body as well as excellent stress management and relaxation. Pilates also helps to enhance the strength of the muscles and tone them up, especially the muscles in the abdomen, hips, lower back (lumber) and buttock - which form the "core muscles" of the body. The series of exercises evolved by Joseph Pilates also helps to maintain the balance of muscular strength on either side of your body. In addition to making the body's posture better, Pilates also helps to enhance the stabilization of the spinal cord.

It has been established that Pilates also improves the muscular control of the limbs and the back of your body. At the same time, this mode of exercises aids in preventing or rehabilitating injuries associated with the muscle imbalances, while enhancing the physical balance and coordination. Pilates helps to unwind the muscles of the upper back, neck and shoulders, in addition to rehabilitating or helping in the recovery from spinal and joint injuries. The exercises developed by Joseph Pilates also help in preventing injuries to the musculoskeletal system. These physical exercises are also beneficial for the respiratory and circulatory systems, as they enhance the ability of the lungs by means of deep breathing.

Pilates helps to make the "core" of one's spinal and abdominal muscles stronger. In fact, these muscles are considered to be the "Pilates Powerhouse". These series of exercises also aid in toning the body, while one develops muscles that are long and lean.

At the same time, Pilates also improves the control over one's posture as well as alignment. When you perform these exercises, your body will be more efficient and safer in its movements. In addition, Pilates assists one to develop a close connection between the mind and the body, thereby enhancing the awareness level of his/ her body.

Pilates is also beneficial for the respiratory tract, as it persuades one to concentrate on their breathing, which can result in reduced muscle tension and stress, anxiety.

In addition, Pilates works intensely to invigorate the entire systems and organs of our body, thereby helping in getting rid of toxic and waste substances. This, in turn, improves blood circulation and transportation of oxygen throughout the body. Low levels of toxin and improved circulation help to improve metabolism. Therefore, when you do Pilates workouts on a mat at a reasonable pace, it is a wonderful way to increase strength and also perk up the metabolic process.

The hamstring pull is considered to be a fundamental part of Pilates exercises performed on a mat and when it is performed at a rapid, but restricted pace, it will help to make your entire leg stronger.

Pilates can be beneficial for people with joint injuries, as it helps to strengthen as well as stabilize the small muscles that bind the muscles with one another. For several decades, physiotherapists have used Pilates for assisting recuperation from injuries and also to prevent various types of injuries.

While Pilates may not help in lowering calories, attending Pilate classes will certainly help one to burn a reasonable amount of calories while they are stretching and strengthening their body. For instance, a woman weighing about 130 pounds will be burning something like 144 calories in an hour-long Pilates class, making these workouts ideal for the days when the intensity is quite low.

Performing Pilates provides additional support to the spines, thereby creating the required space between every vertebra. The additional space between the vertebra helps to make one look taller and, at the same time, makes them more mobile, thereby changing the spine from being an inflexible rod to an agile pearl string. The new-found agility helps to keep away degenerative spinal disorders like slipped disks. In addition, it will help people performing Pilates to move with a new ease and grace.

Apart from enhancing the physical strength, suppleness and posture, Pilates is also beneficial for our emotional health. As these workouts involve smooth and secure movements, they help to calm the mind and appease the nervous system. As Pilates makes the muscles elongated and stronger, it also helps to enhance circulation and get rid of tensions. Every exercise of Pilates movement makes one feel tranquil, balanced as well as invigorated. While performing Pilates, you should essentially focus on getting rid of tension, and this will enable to achieve a healthier body and mind.

When people suffering from osteoarthritis perform Pilates workouts, they find these exercises help to lengthen their body, thereby alleviating all aches and pains. The right type of exercise is crucial for dealing with arthritis, as it enhances suppleness for stretches and, at the same time, minimizes pain and exhaustion. When the body is stretched, it also aids in pumping essential nutrients into the tendons and muscles. These nutrients are useful for keeping the muscles and tendons healthy and also reduce the menaces of sustaining injuries. Stretching the body also helps to invigorate joint lubrication (such as synovial fluid) production and also prevent the joints from sticking together. When circulation is enhanced, it helps to unwind the legs, shoulders, neck and back. In addition to these benefits, Pilates also results in enhancement of delicate postures, which, in turn aids in getting rid of tension, alleviates headaches, and provides relief from neck aches, backaches as well as various other types of pains and aches.


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