There are few workout methods that have spanned the course of almost a century, but Pilates begs to differ. Founded in the 1920’s by a young man who went by the name of Joseph Pilates, he turned to exercise to try and treat his asthma and other medical ailments. After studying exercise and doing his own research, Joseph became enthralled by the Greek ideal of a man balanced in body, mind and spirit. So with this combination of knowledge, he began to develop his own exercise system and was successful at that, because today it’s known today as Pilates.
To this day, almost 100 years on, Pilates is still one of the most universally celebrated workouts and is a method that’s used by a wide diversity of people from football players and professional dancers right through to people recovering from injury and surgery. We caught up with Lucinda Mills, Founder of One Hot Yoga & Pilates to talk about why Pilates is as timeless as it is effective.
In what way do you think Joseph Pilates revolutionised the fitness industry?
Jo Pilates was a genius who made a significant contribution to our ever evolving understanding of “fitness”. At the time he created his system, there was no fitness industry, and his ideas are closer to yoga and Greek philosophy than present day exercise. That is, he envisaged his system as a way to “return to life” (the name of his first publication), not a way to look good in a bikini. He believed that physical exercise is an essential part of mental and psychological well-being. In that respect his ideas are simultaneously visionary and ancient. His understanding of the components required to develop and maintain tonic condition is beautifully nuanced and complete. To this day, if you can complete the classical mat series with good form, you have achieved a remarkable degree of control of your physical and mental self! And to be honest, I think the Pilates revolution is still coming.
Lots of group fitness classes come in ebbs and flows with industry trends, why do you think Pilates has remained so popular for 100 years?
Pilates can be viewed as a fitness class or technique, but actually it is closer to yoga – it is reorganising the physical self in order to facilitate complete expression of our potential. There are so many different techniques that you can use to get a tight tushie (and Pilates certainly does that) but if a system doesn’t address the whole self, it isn’t sustainable. Also, because Pilates is such an intelligent system, it has attracted talented practitioners who contribute to its constant evolution.
Why do you think the Pilates method is such a celebrated one?
Because it works. And the scope of the practice is huge – the same system can be adapted to rehabilitate some one from injury or illness, or transform someone who has had a lifetime of inactivity into a strong, sleek and vital person, or to keep athletes and dancers in peak condition. He was also an energetic inventor, creating the reformer, Pilates chair, Cadillac and many other unique apparatus.
What makes Pilates so unique and incomparable to other fitness classes?
It develops every capability of your body – the stability and mobility of every joint and muscle, and awareness in every cell. A well designed Pilates class will guide you through stabilising and mobilising into full body integration. It is precise – so your body awareness grows rapidly and when that happens you move better but you also get the famous sculpting effect. You can’t tone a muscle unless you move it, and you can’t move it unless you develop a neural connection to it, and you can’t develop that unless the exercise is precise and expertly taught.
Why should everyone include Pilates in their workout repertoire?
Pretty much because what ever you want to achieve, Pilates can help you get there. Have you noticed that every Victoria’s Secret model is doing Pilates? It’s because it creates that long lean look. Lady Gaga rehabilitated a spine injury so that she is finally pain free with Pilates. Athletes are doing it to keep them injury free and to perform at even higher levels. It even improves your yoga!
What are the biggest benefits of Pilates?
Pain free movement, a beautifully aligned and balanced physique, vitality, grace and of course, joy!