Exercise has helped me to focus my mind, to cope with depression and to appreciate the body I’ve been given. Exercise has helped me so much that I’ve decided to launch a new series called “the lighter side…”! Our very first writer is Marika van der Merwe. She trained with Trifocus Pilates and also started working for them; this is where I met pilates and fell in love. I hope you enjoy this article with me and if you have any questions, drop us a comment below…
Change happens through movement and movement heals.
With celebrities dictating almost all the media we consume on a daily basis, something like Pilates gets thrown onto centre stage, adored for a while and then quite quickly forgotten. But is it more than just a fashion trend? And what is Pilates? Is it just a form of yoga? And is it just for girls?
Intro to Pilates
In the 1920’s Joseph Pilates developed a system of physical fitness exercises called contrology. He was sickly as a child, but his health improved to the extent that he posed as an anatomical model by the age of 14. His life course was also rooted in his parents’ views, with a father that was a prize winning gymnast and a mother that firmly believed in the body’s ability to heal itself; he dedicated his life to health and fitness. He firmly believed that mental and physical health was inter-related. He started with gymnastics and bodybuilding, later adding boxing and circus-performing to his skills, as well as becoming a self defence trainer. During World War 1 he was interned and started to teach wrestling and self-defence. It was here that he started refining “contrology”. His method of training was further developed after he got married and moved to New York. This method is today called Pilates.
Principles of Pilates
The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power.
Joseph and his wife trained a couple of students in this method, these students developed their own versions and from their (the students) work the 6 principles of Pilates were determined.
Joseph emphasised using full breaths while training. Proper breathing forms the basis of all exercises and also form integral part of every exercise. Keep in mind that all principles work together.
This principle refers to the physical centre of the body (between the lower ribs and the inner thighs, commonly referred to as the “core”). When proper breathing is maintained throughout an exercise, the muscles in the core will be engaged and the exercise will be successful. Interesting to note is that the core is so much more than just abdominal muscles!
Every movement in Pilates is controlled. No movement is done in a haphazard free manner. Something like momentum has no place in these exercises. How an exercise it done is even more important than the exercise itself.
This goes hand in hand with control, but defines the manner in which Pilates is to be thought through while doing the exercises. This implies that there is a correct way of doing pilates and that it is a skill to be honed and practised. Awareness of every move is sustained throughout, focussing on placement, alignment and trajectory to name a few. As you grow stronger your precision will improve, leaving the area for growth unlimited. There will always be another challenge in pilates, no matter how strong you become.
With precision and control comes a flow of movement. This reminds me of trapeze artists in a circus. The control and precision of every exercise will ensure a gracious flow of movement that will strengthen the body accordingly.
As can be seen from the above list, Pilates is as much about training your mind as it is about training your body. To properly execute a Pilates exercise will take the utmost concentration. To apply the five principles outlined above during every repetition of every exercise is a challenge in itself requiring a lot of concentration!
Contrology is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work. Joseph Pilates
This is a really short description of Pilates, which we will explore further in weeks to come. Pilates is a strength training exercise that will help you to understand the way your body works as well as teach you proper body awareness. Unlike any other exercise regime it will support any and all forms of exercise.
Everyone is the architect of their own happiness.
Marika van der Merwe