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What is Pilates?

Pilates (or Contrology, as it was originally known) was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900’s. As a young man, he used movement to improve his health and from this and other experiences he faced during his life, he developed a system of exercises to build awareness of breath, strengthen muscles and build mobility. Contrology was inspired by other movement modalities such as gymnastics and boxing, as well as interest in watching the way animals moved. Joseph Pilates often went to the zoo in New York to watch the animals as he was fascinated by the efficiency with which animals, big and small, use their bodies. He saw that when animals move, they use their entire bodies.

Joseph Pilates wrote two books Return to Life through Contrology (1934) and Your Health (1945). The importance behind his system was breathing correctly, interaction of body and mind, and the belief that health is holistic. Pilates trains for natural, efficient whole body movement. It requires awareness, and this is the starting point of every exercise.

‘Contrology is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, in the way you work’. Joseph Pilates

How does Pilates help?

When asked why people love pilates and what it does for them there are always a variety of reasons both physical and mental that people give. I have listed a few below…

  1. Body Awareness
  2. Strength
  3. Mobility
  4. Endurance
  5. Stress Relief/Mindfulness

Through these benefits comes feeling good and building confidence in your own body and its ability!

I think John Steel (Caged Lion, p178) sums up what Pilates does beautifully, ‘Pilates is a system of co-ordinated movement, concentration and breathing that fully absorbs [a person] in what he or she is doing, adds grace and efficiency to daily life, relieves stress, increases circulation, augments self esteem, becomes a habit, and most importantly is fun to do.’