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What is Pilates?

The Pilates Method represents a unique approach to exercise that develops body awareness, improving and changing the body's postural and alignment habits, increasing flexibility, strength, balance and coordination.

The Pilates method recognises the importance of spinal stability as the foundation of all  human movement.  Just as the foundations of a house provide stability to the building, so to does the spine provide stability for the body to perform everyday activities. This stability is provided by the bony structure, supporting muscles and ligaments, and a network of nerves similar to the electrical wiring in the house. All of these components must work together for effective postural control and movement.

What is Modified Pilates?

The original Pilates Method was developed by Joseph Pilates.  If Joseph Pilates were alive today, he would possibly marvel at the variety of interpretations of his technique.

As physiotherapists, Pilates Health Instructors have trained in a method of modified Pilates which recognises the uniqueness of individual shape, size, postural habits and specific musculo-skeletal dysfunction.  As we have all had years of experience in dysfunction, we can easily identify the changes which can lead to pain and poor movement. We are trained to analyse this dysfunctional posture and to provide guided training to correct and maintain better postural control over gravity.

Modified Pilates was developed by the APPI.  This method ensures that the exercises that are offered within a class are appropriate and safe for all levels of ability.

Principles of Pilates

Joseph Pilates developed eight basic principles.  These principles are the basis of all pilates programmes and provide an excellent guide to learning, developing and maintaining core stability and improved postural and body awareness.


1. Concentration :         


This programme requires the involvement of both body and mind.  It is essential that you concentrate on every movement to develop correct alignment and body awareness.


2. Breathing :


Focus on breathing is essential to this form of exercise.  Research has shown that co-ordinating breathing out with movements that require the greatest effort provides the spine with the greatest local stability (Allison et al, 1998).  The diaphragm which is the main ‘breathing’ muscle, has a vital role in stabilizing the spine (see  p17). 


Remembering to breath also helps to provide oxygen to the body tissues and once mastered alongside exercise, also helps us to decrease activity in muscles that are not necessary to the movement taking place.   Co-ordinating breathing with the exercises is the most difficult principle for beginners.


3. Centering :


Pilates exercises primarily aim to teach core or ‘centre’ stability and then progress by challenging this stability with various controlled arm & leg movements.

4. Control :        


Pilates exercises are concerned with how well the movement is performed and NOT speed or large numbers of repetitions each session.  In the matwork exercises learnt in these classes, movement control will be gained against gravity.


5. Precision :    


As with control,  attention to precision of each movement is essential for long term improvement in movement awareness and control.


6. Flowing movements :


Picture an Olympian swimmer with that ’dolphin-like’ movement under water. This is the flowing movements we are looking for in learning this exercise technique.  Muscles that provide smooth flowing movements are muscles that are working well together and are protecting underlying bones and ligaments.


7. Isolation :


Isolation refers to the mind-body awareness that allows us to focus our movement on a specific area without bringing in muscle groups that are not necessary to that particular movement.  Learning to isolate movement in Pilates is about using our energy efficiently to achieve the desired movement.


8. Routine :


As with any exercise, routine and repetition at intervals improves our skill and technique - 15 to 30 minutes, 4 times weekly is recommended

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