Reforming Pilates Studio, What is Pilates?

Most people have heard the term “Pilates” from the gym, magazine articles or friends, but not many can answer the simple question “what is Pilates?”
Pilates is a form of exercise developed by Joseph Pilates, which emphasizes the balanced development of the body through core strength, flexibility, and mind-body awareness in order to improve the overall quality of life. Its growing popularity has resulted in a long list of devoted followers, including Hollywood stars, fitness experts and professional athletes.Initially evolved from Joseph’s obsession with creating health and well-being in his own body, Pilates has always been about creating peak fitness, not peak performance. This means that it does not improve one element of the body at the detriment of another. It is simply about creating the best you. I like to phrase it as “achieving the highest level of strength, control and balance for the mind, body and spirit”. Joseph’s original system had six principles that are the center of modern Pilates today: Centering, Control, Flow, Breath, Precision, and Concentration.
Pilates gets your mind in tune with your body. As a society we are out of tune with our own bodies and don’t understand how they function. My least favorite phrase is “I’m just getting old.” The body is capable of being the same in our 80’s as it was in our 20’s!  By emphasizing proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment, and complete concentration on smooth, flowing movement, you become acutely aware of how your body feels, where it is in space, and how to control its movement. The quality of movement is valued over quantity of repetitions. Proper breathing is essential, and helps you execute movements with maximum power and efficiency.
The Pilates method is highly adaptable. Models and dancers have always gravitated towards Pilates to build strength without excess bulk, creating a sleek, toned body with slender thighs and a flat abdomen. Pilates exploded in popularity when women as a group discovered this. Athletes use it for strength, flexibility, and injury prevention as their aim for peak performance can create imbalance. With its emphasis on the core and pelvic floor systems, Pilates is perfectly aligned for pre and post pregnancy. Pilates and Physical Therapy, the largest growing sector, are the perfect marriage for regaining balanced muscular strength and function while being low impact and gentle on the joints.
The specifically designed equipment of Pilates is essential, especially those that incorporate spring resistance. The chair, cadillac, springboard and the most well-know reformer are all from Joseph’s original designs. Costing upwards of $8,000, these items, although medieval looking, are highly sophisticated and specific. Pilates “mat” work is limited in its ability to achieve all that Pilates can do for a person.
Pilates, like other exercise forms that experience massive popularity growth, has been watered down and commercialized in some arenas. Although DVDs are widely available, you should study with a certified instructor in order to learn proper form and have the proper mind-body awareness to avoid injury.  If you’d like to experience Pilates for yourself the way it was intended to be practiced, make sure you find a place with certified, experienced and knowledgeable instructors as well as relatively small class sizes. Without these elements, Pilates becomes just another gym workout class!
Michael Abbott owns and operates Reforming Indy Pilates Studios with his Wife, Kristen Abbott. Winner of The A-lists Best Pilates Studio for 2008 and 2009, they have two locations in Carmel.