About Pilates

Q: I am going to a Pilates mat class for the first time. Are there special words I should know? I don’t want to be lost!

A couple of words your teacher might throw out are:

Powerhouse- The powerhouse are your abdominal muscles. In Pilates you always want to be pulling your powerhouse in and up. Imagine sinking your navel toward your spine and then lifting your navel up toward your chest.

Pilates Stance- In Pilates stance your heels are squeezing together and your toes are only slightly apart, forming a small V shape.

Hundred- Most Pilates classes start with the hundred. This is done lying on your back. Your arms pump up and down one hundred times. The arms are not far from the floor- only 2-6 inches. As you pump your arms you breath in for 5 counts and out for 5 until you reach 100!

Q: I take Pilates classes at my gym. Throughout the whole class I feel my lower back working. I often feel it for days after class. I thought Pilates is supposed to alleviate pain, not bring it on! What\’s wrong?

You are absolutely correct! You should not be feeling your back working throughout the whole Pilates class and it’s not a good sign that you feel it for days after.

In most Pilates mat classes; you should only be working your back while doing back exercises. In a traditional mat workout, typically these are the exercises done while lying on the stomach.

If listening closely to your teacher’s cues do not help alleviate your working back, rest and wait for the next exercise. In many Pilates exercises the back will start to work if 1. the abdominal muscles become exhausted 2. your body does not have the flexibility necessary for the exercise 3. the body is lacking strength in certain areas. Often times simply bending the knees or making an exercise a smaller movement can change an exercise from a back exercise to an abdominal exercise.

Q: What is Pilates?

The Pilates Method of Physical Conditioning was developed by Joseph Pilates. He was born in Germany in 1880. He began his career as a middleweight boxer and then moved to England to work in the circus in 1914. A German national in England at the onset of World War I he was placed in an internment camp on the Isle of Man and served as the camp\’s physical instructor. The camp became a laboratory for his health and fitness methods. Men without injury performed his mat exercises and he attached springs to the beds of invalids to rehabilitate them.

In 1919 he returned to Hamburg, Germany and became the physical education instructor for the military police. From his experiences he concluded that a common characteristic among healthy bodies is a flexible spine, strong center, and strength throughout the body.

In 1925 Pilates left for America. He was hired to train German boxing champion Max Schmelling. Pilates opened a studio in New York City on eighth avenue. In the early days of his New York City studio most of his clients were male boxers, wrestlers, and skiers. However, it didn\’t take long for George Balanchine and Martha Graham to discover the brilliance of his method and soon his studio was flooded with dancers and artists.

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