Pilates was developed during the 1st World War by Dr Joseph Pilates - he was a German interned by the British who used his time to teach his fellow internees exercise techniques that could be done with limited space and props, yet would aid recovery for injuries and ill health. After the war he emigrated to New York where, along with his wife Clara, he opened an exercise studio and began to promote his method. The studio was soon attracting the cream of New York's ballet and dance circles, who found the Pilates technique invaluable for rehabilitation after injury, as well as a useful addition to their own skills.
The central philosophy of the method is to strengthen the core postural muscles and develop balanced alignment through the use of slow, controlled movements and breathing. It has eight major principles: Centering, Alignment, Co-ordination, Concentration, Relaxation, Breathing, Stamina and Flowing Movements.
In recent years, with the growth of mind/body awareness, Pilates has grown and now attracts people from many walks of life - sportsmen and women, celebrities and the general public. A variety of videos are available, however it is generally recommended that beginners should initially attend a class in order to learn correct alignment before commencing with home exercise. Pilates can be taught on a one-to-one basis, or in small classes of between 8 and 12 - this ensures that the teacher is able to focus on individual needs.
The benefits to the body of Pilates have been well researched, and it is often recommended by the medical profession for chronic backache and RSI injuries. Many teachers of the discipline are former dancers with a good working knowledge of muscles and injuries, or physiotherapists who see it as a way to empower people with the means to help themselves recover from injury or pain.
Pilates professionals also recommend it for first time exercisers, the elderly, those suffering from ME and people who in general wish to improve their physical and mental well being.
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