Pilates methods stretch, strengthen muscles

“Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world should be doing my exercises,” said Joseph Pilates, 86, in 1965 according to the Pilates Method Alliance Web site.

Thirty-seven years later the Pilates method, created by Joseph Pilates, is practiced in parts of Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia.

Pilates is a method of exercise that stretches, strengthens and balances the body through specific exercises and breathing techniques.

Around 1914, Pilates combined elements of yoga, ancient Greek and Roman physical regimens and mat exercises done on the floor.

He called his exercise method “contrology.”

“Everything should be smooth, like a cat,” said Pilates, who died in 1967.

“The exercises are done lying, sitting, kneeling, etc. to avoid excessive strain on the heart and lungs.”

Later, he designed equipment to create resistance and aid in practicing Pilates.

Kevin Bowen, Pilates instructor and president/co-founder of the Pilates Method Alliance, can relate to the aches and pains of trying to stay in shape.

Bowen was injured from teaching too many step aerobics classes when he discovered Pilates.

“I was tired of being sore all the time,” said Bowen, who teaches in Miami.

Bowen said the Pilates method has become popular because of celebrity testimonials, the need for an exercise regimen that is ageless and simply because it works.

“The population is aging and very health conscious,” Bowen said.

“It makes people feel good. Pilates is less impactful and results driven. It produces less stress on the joints by lengthening and strengthening.

The benefits of Pilates include improved posture, flexibility and balance by strengthening the abdominal and back muscles.

FAMU graduates Allison Black and Elizabeth Riguad both have attended Pilates classes and have mixed reactions.

“Pilates is difficult because you have to focus and you have to stay strong,” Riguad said. “But, at the same time its enjoyable and relaxing. It allows you to work on your flexibility.”

While Riguad enjoyed the calm and relaxing atmosphere of Pilates, Black was not impressed.

“I wasn’t into it,” she said. “I wanted more movement like in aerobics.”

According to Bowen, results depend on the person.

But within four weeks of doing Pilates, two to three times a week, there will be results.

“Some feel the results first and some see results first,” said Bowen who has been teaching for eight years.

“A number of people feel better after the first session. You will see results if you are consistent.”

Pilates’ effectiveness depends heavily on the instructor’s training. Bowen said there are no national standards for the Pilates method and certificates can be given over the Internet and through weekend classes.

“Pilates can’t be learned in a weekend,” Bowen said.

Joseph Pilates studied over 20 years to develop his exercise regimen and instructors that studied under him trained for as long as two to three years before being able to teach.

For more information call the PMA toll-free at (866) 573-4945.