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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An Introduction to Pilates

When someone enters the studio for their first Pilates lesson, they often quickly become quite overwhelmed. Most new students enter the studio with absolutely no idea of what they’re getting into. This means I need to begin the first lesson by trying to make them feel as comfortable as possible in an environment akin to a sadomasochist’s “playroom.”

Wide eyed, people enter the Pilates studio and ask if it is a torture chamber. Well, yes, it does look such. Leather straps. Metal frames. "Safety" chains. Beds with bars...

The equipment cannot be explained without telling you about the man behind the magnificence. The following is an abbreviated history of the life of Mr. Pilates. I will add some links below to his two books, which are really manifestos. Yes, manifestos. I should write a manifesto. That would be interesting.
pilates, health, exercise, wellness, body, mind, spirit
Joseph Pilates
Anyway, Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in Monchengladbach, Germany in the late 1880’s (for those of you wondering, that’s about 70km, or an hour and some change, on the autobahn according to Google Maps at the time I checked, from the town where Heidi Klum was born!.). He had rickets and asthma and was a sickly child, who was told he’d never amount to anything physically. 

He decided to prove everyone wrong, and began studying ancient forms of Greek fitness, Roman gladiator training, wrestling, marital arts, boxing and gymnastics. He joined the circus with his brother in a Roman gladiator act. He toured with said circus, and was captured and put in prison camp during World War 1. 

Based on his aforementioned studies, he had developed a series of mobility exercises, which he performed for daily physical maintenance. These exercises were the foundation of modern mat work. 
The guards in the camp saw him performing his daily exercises and put him to work with the injured soldiers. These men were unable to do his exercises, and though he manually assisted them at first, it was too waring a thing to continue. Thus, the modern equipment was formed from the hospital beds, springs and traction equipment being used by the injured.

So there you have it. Quick and painless introduction to Pilates equipment and history; the primary things I cover with new students on their first visit. In the next post, I’ll give you the second part of what we would discuss with you on your first lesson. It involves fire and liquor.

-- Amie Avi, Pilates Instructor

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