Joseph Pilates spent his life studying wellness. The German born child of a prize-winning gymnast father and a holistic nurse mother, Joseph was a sickly child. He adapted the methods used by the Greek and Roman warriors to combat and prevail against asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Taking these passions into his life’s work, Mr. Pilates trained and rehabilitated soldiers and prisoners of war. The first reformer was an army cot with a system of pulleys and springs that he concocted in a military hospital.
Mr. Pilates’ ideas were revolutionary at the time. His exercises were designed to restore vigor to the body so the individual could experience a better quality of life. (Remember, yoga didn’t appear in the U.S. until the 1960’s.) His belief was to eliminate body fatigue and mental strain through the mastery of the mind over complete control of the body. He believed that mental vigor, as well as physical vigor, was renewed by reawakening thousands of otherwise dormant muscle cells. People were moving from farms to desk jobs. Strain and fatigue, both mental and physical, were evident from sitting for long periods of time. He thought that with new sedentary lifestyles, people no longer breathed properly and posture was poor. He believed that using the minor muscle groups would not only strengthen the major muscles but it would improve spirit.
And you know, he was correct. What the ancients knew in the heart, modern science is now proving to be true. Activating the minor muscles does impact the neurotransmitters in the brain. Mr. Pilates thought that by practicing his exercises called Contrology - the name never stuck - you would not only see a fit and well toned body in as little as three months, but you would also strengthen the will and develop a consciousness of possessing the power to accomplish your desires!
Wow! That’s some pretty deep stuff coming out of an exercise class right?! That’s just it. Pilates, when practiced faithfully twice a week, can really have life changing effects. It spills over from the reformer to your life. You might handle stress better. As you strengthen the core, you whittle the middle. This equates to standing taller, feeling stronger, and having more energy to do the things in life that bring you joy and happiness.
Using a series of precise, well executed exercises – along with attention to correct breathing patterns and posture – the Pilates method will create a fit, well balanced body. Pilates will properly and scientifically exercise every muscle in your body, which will then be reflected in the way you live your life. Mr. Pilates said it best. “It’s a program designed to give suppleness, natural grace and skill.
Shanti Shanti –
Tis the season. While fun and festivities abound, many people find this time of year stressful. So…. Keep your workout routine on the schedule. Don’t skip it!
Before I opened my studio in Capistrano Beach, I taught pilates, yoga, and tai chi in the park at the University of California, Irvine for 10 years. As I began a new quarter and started with a new group of students, I always polled each individual on the first day of classes to determine the goal desired in taking the class. I was always rather surprised to hear so many young people telling me their goal was in taking pilates or yoga was peace!
But then maybe I wasn’t so surprised after all. In all mind body traditions, breath is an integral component of the practice. Most mind body traditions use what we call an audible breath. Which means?..... breathe loudly!
This might seem rather strange to the new comer, but those that have an established practice know very well that to get that sought, after glow of the practice, you must breath. If you breathe with your movements, you can achieve that peaceful feeling sometimes referred to as an endorphin high. Relaxed, clear minded, energized, and restored with renewed vigor.
You won’t be in our studio for long before you realize that all of our classes engage in audible breath patterns. From the Fletcher breath in Pilates to the Ujjayi breath in yoga…
So why am I such a big proponent of breath? I always think that if a bit of wisdom comes at you from several different traditions or disciplines, there you will find truth.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says, “Calm is retained by the controlled exhalation or retention of the breath.”
In Return to life, Pilates says, “Correct breathing exercises under the dominance of mental control would undoubtedly accomplish more toward attaining and maintaining maximum health standards, than all other remedies combined.”
And with that I remember a lovely chant to the sun god… loosely translated as something like… with a calm mind I will take the appropriate action at the appropriate time. Your breath will bring you a calm mind. The more you practice… the easier it is to bring yourself to a calm mind. You will be more peaceful…happier…and enjoy more success in your life….
Shanti shanti …