Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1883. He was a poorly child and suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, thus prompting his lifelong ambition to find optimum health. Joseph believed that poor breathing techniques and bad posture were the root of all health issues and started developing his training techniques through studying yoga and forms of martial arts amidst being a gymnast, diver, bodybuilder, boxer and self defence trainer at Scotland Yard. He was interned during World War 1 and provided resistance training for bedridden patients by rigging springs to bedposts, creating the first ‘reformer’ (Pilates apparatus equipment.) He stated that anyone he trained would leave stronger than when they arrived, and the influenza epidemic of 1918 which killed thousands of people but not a single one of Joseph’s trainees is a clear indication that this was a man who clearly knew his stuff.
Pilates is widely used as a popular training method for those looking to strengthen their cores, realign their bodies and elongate their silhouettes. It is popular in dance communities the world over. Joseph and his wife Clara ran their studio from the exclusive New York City Ballet. Many dancers had inadvertently been practicing Pilates without realising it! It was first used by Rudolf Von Laban and Hanya Holmand and is still used in their techniques today.
Physiotherapists refer patients as some of the movements treat certain back ailments, though programmes are obviously tailored to suit each individual’s needs. As a vast percentage of spinal issues are caused by lifestyle (sitting for long periods, carrying heavy bags on one shoulder etc) the act of realigning posture and bringing the body back into balance is a simple way to stop backache becoming a pain in the a*s! The body is worked biomechanically through it’s natural range of movement, targeting areas which are sometimes neglected through more compound work or no work at all!
I first wondered into fitness myself upon discovering that I had scoliosis (an ‘s’ shaped curvature of the spine.) A brace wasn’t an option for me and the surgery would have involved breaking then resetting my back with a 50% chance of paralysis. As I’d always harboured dreams of becoming a dancer and was quite partial to being able to walk, I decided to explore other avenues. I used to experience excruciating pain in the lower back and my clothes hang slightly longer on one side, but for the most part I am 99% ok which I can live quite happily with. As a Pilates instructor I have witnessed many times my participants increase strength and mobility and eliminate pain to the point that they no longer need osteopaths or chiropractors. Again, everybody is different and Pilates needs to be modified for people with disc problems. I advise people with neck problems to sleep flat with no pillow so that the neck is in alignment with the spine. Sciatica sufferers would benefit from sleeping on their sides with a pillow between their knees to keep their hips stacked and parallel, releasing pressure on the lower back. Supplements such as Glucosamine Sulphate strengthen the joints and mimic what is naturally inside the body. It is a sugar found in and around the tissues and fluids that cushion the joints. Arnica oil is a homeopathic muscle relaxant which rapidly eases aches and tension. As does a long hot bath. Enjoy.