Pilates is a form of exercise developed by Joseph Pilates. He referred to it as “contrology,” not Pilates. Mr. Pilates was a huge believer that exercise could cure all ills. He was in an internment camp and had convinced everyone in his barrack to exercise with him. Using the springs from the bunk beds he led them in daily exercise. During a flu outbreak that caused many deaths in the camp, none of Mr. Pilates’ trainees died. The German army took notice and asked him to train their soldiers. Instead, Joe fled to the United States and set up a studio in New York.
Pilates uses different types of equipment to facilitate and challenge movement. The most common is the reformer, which is a moving carriage attached to a frame with springs and ropes.
Other Pilates inventions include the Trapeze Table, the Chair, and the Pilates Arc. Pilates can also be done without any equipment at all.
I was first attracted to Pilates for its efficiency. I loved how the exercises I was learning felt like I was working my whole body at once and how I was able to work on both length and strength at the same time. I quickly learned to love the mind-body connection Pilates helped me find. Detailed imagery, cueing, and feedback from the machines transformed how I was using (and talking to) my body.
As a physical therapist, Pilates has given me a way to help clients achieve their full potential. Oftentimes, we get caught up in treating a specific area and forget what else that area is connected to. For example, a shoulder may be the part of the body that hurts but the shoulder is connected to the back, the core, and even the hips and legs. Neglecting to assess and treat those areas can lead to an incomplete recovery. Incorporating a broader view of the body has helped me learn what is key to treat and when. This often leads to shorter treatment times and improved long-term results.