by Theresa Scully of Arch Pilates in Mandarin
Many people still don’t know what Pilates is, and that’s okay. It is the responsibility of those like myself and Pilates students to spread the word and continue to boast about the amazing body transformations that occur with this innovative exercise program. But, to call it an exercise program, is giving it a disservice. The Pilates method has aided me to help so many patients. Sixteen years ago, as an orthopedic physical therapist, I began researching treatment programs that were successful in treating chronic low back pain and neck pain. I was just not satisfied with the treatment programs I learned from traditional physical therapy programs. I knew something was missing. So, somehow I came across the Pilates Method while researching exercises for low back pain and a small article on Pilates popped up. I wanted to learn more, so I purchased a Pilates DVD and the book, “Pilates for Dummies.” This book taught me the basic Pilates principles and exercises to apply to therapeutic exercise and activities in the clinic. I started to see results! My patients were reporting decreased pain and increased function. And, so my interest and commitment for Pilates began!
Josef Pilates’ History
Josef H. Pilate was born in Germany in 1883. He suffered many childhood ailments and healed himself by studying anatomy and normal movement. He studied both Eastern and Western forms of exercise and movement philosophies including yoga, Zen, and ancient Greek and Roman programs. His physique was perfectly defined that by the age of 14 he was asked to model for anatomy diagrams. He moved on to become a skier, diver, boxer, and in 1914 a circus performer in a Roman gladiator act. Working as a “nurse-physiotherapist”, he rehabilitating wounded soldiers in WWI. He was then imprisoned as a German Nationalist in Lancaster, England. As a POW he developed his philosophy of “Contrology.” He was allowed to work with injured internists. He used the spring parts of the hospital bed to develop the first of many Pilates apparatus, Trapeze table and the Reformer. It is boasted that because his fellow internees followed his exercise regime, his camp on the Isle of Man survived the flu epidemic of 1918 that killed many others. When released from the camp, Josef spent time training boxers and the Hamburg Police. When he was asked to train German soldiers in 1923, he refused and quickly moved to America with the advice of his family. Josef opened his New York studio in a boxing gym that also housed many dance studios. Josef’s passion was working with boxers, but dancers flocked to his studio to treat stress injuries. Pilates pioneered a philosophy of exercise training that integrated the mind/body connection. He died at the age of 83 due to complications with emphysema due to smoking too many cigars! He was a health guru, but he loved cigars and whisky!
The Therapeutic Benefits
The basis of the Pilates Method is core strengthening, utilizing nine principles that connect the mind, body, and spirit. The principles are: Breathing, Concentration, Control, Centering, Precision, Balanced Muscle Movement, Rhythm and Flow, Whole Body Movement, and Relaxation. Exercises are dynamic and performed in all body positions. Specific muscles are targeted and performed in 8-10 repetitions. Pilates exercises will strengthen your abdominals and back, improve balance, increase coordination, and decrease stress mentally and physically. Strength and stability along with body awareness and mental focus enables the body to move with efficient neuromuscular control. This optimal neuromuscular control carries over to all movements in life. Thus, treating and preventing painful movements as well as improving strength and coordination at all stages of life. As a physical therapist, I can appreciate the emphasis on postural alignment and movement from the center of the body outward. As I continue to enhance my education in the physical therapy realm, I have discovered many concepts that anchor my dedication to Pilates. Mr. Pilates was an ultimate body observer, spending hours watching animals and humans move. He spoke of concepts and movement patterns that we know today as proprioceptive neuro-muscular facilitation, anatomy trains, myofascial planes, integrated functional movement, kinesthetic awareness, and much more. He didn’t have the medical training, he just observed and worked with so many bodies that he instinctively knew how to stimulate symmetrical and beautiful movement. As a therapist, beautiful movement is not about the aesthetic of dancing, as many people attribute to Pilates. It is the beauty of being able to perform hours of sitting at a desk with good posture. It is also the beauty of performing repetitive lifting, pulling, pushing, and twisting as a construction worker. It’s the ability to endure hours of cycling, running, golfing, and toddler chasing! It’s also very beautiful to see an NFL player increasing strength and flexibility on a Pilates reformer! What can I say, I’m a huge football fan!
Research Supports Pilates as Therapeutic
Research is now marking the medical arena, giving Pilates substantial backing of its therapeutic effects. I have treated many chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraines, myofascial pain syndrome, osteoporosis, aneurism, stroke, Parkinson’s, Familial Dysautonomia, and Autism. I have earned these clients respect and dedication to Pilates. I have changed their function so much. Of that, I attribute to the Pilates method and the drive and commitment my clients put towards every session they attend. Please reference the library of research articles available online at www.Polestarpilates.com and www.Pilates.com.
Pilates for the Modern Day Person
In its development in the New York City studios, Pilates exercises naturally evolved through dance influence. But, now, many fitness and wellness professionals have brought it to the mainstream and has made it more accessible to everybody wanting and willing to work out their core and improve their bodies. Athletes can improve their game and performance. Individuals seeking weight loss, strength, and improved physical appearance partake in Pilates. Chronic pain sufferers and older adults enjoy Pilates because of its low stress on the joints. Medically complex populations can exercise in a safe and ultimately therapeutic environment. And, ultimately, Pilates is NOT just for women! A man invented it originally for men!
So, as you grow wiser in your lifetime and want to remain healthy, active, and non-painful, give Pilates a try. There is a program for every body type. It could be 10 minutes of mat exercises every other day or a rigorous twice a week reformer program. I guarantee you will see a difference in your body.
In honor of Pilates Day, I have gathered testimonials. Please take a quick look at them on www.facebook.com/archpilates. Join studios in the area celebrating Pilates day and find out what free offerings or discounted classes may be available for you to try: www.facebook.com/pilatescommunityjacksonvillesaintjohns
Theresa Scully, PT, CPI. Owns and Operates Arch Pilates & Physical Therapy in Mandarin. 904.860.5392. Theresa@archpilates.com Arch Pilates
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