General Information

“I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.” — Joseph Hubertus Pilates, in 1965, age 86.

What is Pilates (pronounced puh-LAH-tees)?
It is a struggle to come up with a short, compact definition for Pilates, as it is so simplistically amazing and benefits everyone.

Here is a formal definition:
An exercise system with and without apparatus based on eight basic principles. The aim is to improve flexibility and strength and to create a balance in the body through muscular/skeletal symmetry. Pilates focuses on executing movements with exacting technique to integrate mind and muscles.  It includes comprehensive regulation of the physical functions and leads to physical and mental relaxation. Particularly effective for back, posture, and skeletal alignment problems, as well as for sports enhancement and for those wanting to lose inches.

Building on this explanation, Pilates is a lot like exercising in water.  It’s easy on the joints and organs, everyone can do it, and it benefits every type of body, including those with physical disabilities.  However something that water does not offer is the tactile information to your body.  Like articulating through the feet to bring circulation to your lower limbs (and to rid your calves and arches of your feet that terrible tightness!), or imprinting and massaging your spine onto a mat one vertebra at a time, creating mobility in the spine.  For example, Pengu’s master trainer Sommer has seen levels ranging from Olympic athletes looking to beat their world records, to people who have had recent lung transplants.  From pro bodybuilders, to people just recovering from severe injuries like a severed Achilles tendon.  10 year olds to 88 year olds.  People suffering with arthritis, osteoporosis, bulging discs in spines, foot/ankle/knee/hip issues, repetitive stress on various parts of the body (like neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist), pre/post natal, ALL benefit and should be doing Pilates (with their doctor’s approval, of course).  Whether you’re fit, semi-fit, or not fit at all, Pilates will change your body.  If you take 30 classes within 12 weeks, you will truly feel and look healthier and leaner.

More articles on what Pilates is – though from different perspectives, all of them true and applicable:
What is Pilates by Balanced Body

What is the Pilates Reformer?
Gears, straps, springs and pulleys! At first sight, the Pilates Reformer can be an intimidating looking piece of equipment. Despite the somewhat medieval name, the Reformer is actually an amazingly elegant machine. It provides finely tuned exercise resistance that allows one to work very precisely with alignment, core strength, and all of the Pilates exercise principles. It  is the most popular piece of equipment and one of Joseph Pilates’ original inventions. He believed beginning exercise in the horizontal plane was important to relieve the stress and strain on the joints, and to align the body before adding additional gravitational forces through the central axis while standing, sitting or kneeling.

Some articles for more information:
The Anatomy of the Reformer
Pilates Reformers for Building Strength and Flexibility

What is the Pilates Chair (aka Wunda Chair)?
The Chair was invented as a result of Joseph Pilates’ observation of Chinese acrobatic maneuvers on a “box” – when turned over it doubles as an actual chair. Pure function. Designed to stretch and strengthen muscle groups like the back and deep abdominal muscles, the Chair employs both the large and small muscle groups. Exercises done using the Chair also promote balance and body control.

Some articles for more information:
Intro to the Pilates Chair on About.com
Google Videos on the Chair (check out the 1930s videos with Joseph demonstrating his new invention!)

Pilates Is Not for Everyone

Some 50% of adults experience back pain at some time in their lives. At any given time, 25% of adults have acute or chronic back pain, says Jupiter, Fla., physical therapist Michael L. Reed, DPT.

Pilates and other exercises that focus on the stability of the muscles that support the spine might seem like a perfect fit. But not all pain is the same, cautions Reed. Without a diagnosis for your back pain from a physician or health care professional, Pilates could do more harm than good, he says.

“You can’t go to a non-medical practitioner that teaches Pilates and think that will resolve your back pain,” says Reed. “That’s the mistake people make.”

That’s not necessarily to say that Pilates won’t help, says Reed, who uses Pilates in his rehabilitation studio. Movement training is a sensible way to manage pain, and non-weight-bearing exercises like Pilates can be done even by those struggling with pain, he says.

However, he warns, “it’s advantageous to have a better idea what may be generating their symptoms first.”
As any well-trained Pilates teacher will attest, without a proper diagnosis for the pain, even the best instructor cannot design a safe and effective exercise program.

The Benefits of Pilates
By Barbara Russi Sarnataro
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature

Feel free to bring in xrays or doctor/physical therapist’s diagnosis for Pengu to review and decide whether Pilates physical therapy is for you. Please have your doctor’s approval before beginning Pilates.