What is Pilates?

Pilates (pronounced pih-LAH-tees) is an exercise method that improves strength, flexibility, mobility, health and well-being. It can help anyone to move and feel better regardless of age, ability or fitness level, from Olympic athletes to elderly people. Far more than a recent fitness craze, Pilates has been developed and practised since the 1920s, when Joseph and Clara Pilates opened their Body Conditioning Gym in New York City. According to Joe Pilates, the method “develops the body uniformly, corrects posture, restores vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit”. It is this holistic approach that sets Pilates apart from many other forms of exercise. Osteopaths, physiotherapists and general practitioners recommend Pilates as one of the most effective forms of exercise today.


Benefits of Pilates

MG_4905-pilates-3Pilates is much more than just building a “strong core” or attaining “perfect posture”. Using gravity, breath and spring resistance, Pilates uses whole body movement, targeting specific muscle groups to elongate and strengthen and to re-educate movement patterns and rebalance the underlying muscular and structural systems in the body. An imbalance in these systems can create ongoing pain and difficulty with movement.


Lengthened and strengthened muscles improve posture and overall fitness, restoring optimum physical function for each individual body and stage of life.  When long-standing patterns shift, practitioners feel an increased sense of freedom in their bodies and their lives.


Studio or Matwork?

Classes can be found in health clubs, church halls, complementary health centres and dedicated Pilates studios. Exercises involve the whole body and are performed on spring-assisted apparatus (sometimes called Studio Pilates) or a mat, sometimes utilising small equipment.

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Both Studio Apparatus and Matwork can facilitate profound changes in the body when they are practiced holistically within the original principles and taught by a qualified Pilates Foundation teacher.


Why the Pilates Foundation?

Many people have adapted aspects of the Pilates method over the years so that some teachers today use the technique for very different purposes from those originally intended by Joe Pilates. Some are essentially fitness trainers who learn a quick fix set of exercises which they teach by rote as part of an aerobics class. Teacher training in these cases can sometimes last for just a few days.  Other classes mix yoga with some Pilates exercises. When considering taking a Pilates class, it is important to know what is being offered, what kind of training the teacher has received and what you aim to achieve through Pilates.


In the UK, the gold standard of Pilates teachers are members of the Pilates Foundation. _MG_3629-pilates 2The only non-profit Pilates organization in the UK, the Pilates Foundation is dedicated to instilling and upholding the highest standards of Pilates teaching and practice. Pilates Foundation members have extensive knowledge of human anatomy, physiology and movement learned during a rigorous training programme of 1,200 hours over two years.

Their specialist training in working with people with chronic conditions means that Pilates Foundation teachers are qualified to join the register of NHSTA Complementary Health Practitioners.


Research articles on Pilates

The Effectiveness of Pilates Training in Healthy Adults: an Appraisal of the Research Literature


Study finds Pilates helps back pain sufferers


Effects of Pilates Training on Lumbo-Pelvic Stability and Flexibility


NHS Choices: A Guide to Pilates – includes interview with Pilates Foundation teacher Anne-Marie Zulkahari




“Pilates is a wonderful form of exercise for anyone of any age. I started in my fifties. Then I was developing a dowager’s hump as as a result of life-long asthma. Today, aged 72, though still short of puff, I lead an active life – and my back is straighter as well.

Pilates is not only the most wonderful physio for the lungs, it also keeps our bodies in good nick. I am gaining bone mass not losing it and were it not for shortness of breath, no one would know there was anything wrong with me. Both my teachers are members to the Pilates Foundation, there is no substitute for the best.” — Francesca

“I had only ever done ‘mass’ classes before and thought I knew about ‘core’ strength….. When my back went, I didn’t believe that Pilates (one to one and in a small group) could do anything I hadn’t already tried.

“How utterly wrong I was.

“I now have a fuller range of movement than I did when I was doing triathlons, I’m more in touch with my body, I’ve learnt (and am learning) to hold myself differently and my back pain is substantially reduced to the point that I am slowly returning to exercise. The difference these Pilates classes with a Pilates Foundation trained teacher have made to my life is astounding and now, quite honestly, I can’t imagine my life without it.” – Anonymous

“The session yesterday made me feel warm and comfortable as I walked, also this morning I was much less stiff than normal on getting up! Thank you.” — Stella

For more information and to find a Pilates teacher in the UK, contact Pilates Foundation

Information kindly provided by:
Pilates Foundation
PO Box 51186
SE13 9DA

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