“. . . the comprehensive integration of body, mind and spirit.” Joseph Pilates
Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) was a German-born circus performer and boxer who developed a type of exercise now known as Pilates. During a forced internment at the outbreak of WWI, Joe began to develop the floor exercises that have evolved into the Pilates mat work we now use. In the rehabilitation of other detainees, he used on-hand bedsprings and beer-keg rings as resistance; these evolved into the specialized and much more elaborate equipment we know today.
In 1925 Joseph Pilates moved from Germany to New York, where he established his studio with wife Clara, and where he developed the Pilates method of exercise, invented the Pilates exercise equipment, and trained the first generation of students. In close proximity to the dance studios of New York where he taught from 1926 to 1966, he was inevitably “discovered” by the dance community. It was this community that kept Joe’s work alive until exercise science in the 1980’s brought the Pilates method more into the mainstream.
As his (title) quote would imply, Joseph Pilates believed in a multidimensional approach to well-being, possibly stemming from his being unhealthy as a child. His personal research led him into all forms of self-improvement, Eastern philosophy and spiritual practices. He wrote two books: Return to Life through Contrology (1945) with William J. Miller, and Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education (1934). Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at a fit 84 years of age.
How does Pilates exercise compare with Physical Therapy?
When asked this question, and how Pilates might be defined, Folsom Physical Therapy’s Suzanne Talbert, PT answered, “Pilates as another method of exercise more fully integrates the physical and the mental. It helps an individual to develop focus and re-establish balanced movement patterns. In the sense of restarting the neuromuscular system, it dovetails nicely with the facilitation techniques used in physical therapy.”
Like the practice of yoga, Pilates employs a strong emphasis on the integration of proper breathing, and on balance and symmetry. While exercise can occur on the (floor) mat or in a chair, the springs of the Reformer can assist or resist movement. Further, the non-weightbearing posture that may be adopted on the Reformer is excellent for load-sensitive pathologies. And because of this positioning and equipment, the person can move into ranges that he or she might not normally go into. You think you’re working your extremities, but always you’re applying your core.”
While there is no obvious cardio component in Pilates, it does focus on quality vs. quantity in order to enhance “endurance of muscle.” “You can still push yourself, even though it doesn’t look like aerobic work”, says Suzanne. “When performed appropriately and consistently, one should feel taller. Pilates devotees claim they are more energized, and experience a renewed vitality and ‘zest for life’ after adopting Pilates as a lifestyle choice.”
Pilates at Folsom Physical Therapy
At FPT Suzanne Talbert, PT is meshing Pilates principles with a solid foundation of orthopedic physical therapy. “Judiciously applied, Pilates can provide the next step in spinal education. Really, it offers just another way to understand your spine, integrating mechanics, flexibility and strengthening on another level.”
Pilates can be an effective and potent addition to an already-established exercise program or physical therapy treatment plan. “There is no other gym where you can use Pilates equipment in an open gym setting”, says Suzanne. Unlike constant personal training, FPT’s “Wise Spine Pilates” offers an individually tailored version of Pilates that trains you to use the equipment safely and independently.”