Have You Tried Pilates Yet?
The century-old exercise program called Pilates is experiencing a resurgence as people look for better ways to exercise and improve strength and well-being.
"After the first session I knew it was exactly what I
needed," says Epes, 55. "It allowed me to exercise and not be afraid I
was going to hurt my back."
The once-underweight Epes gained muscle mass and a new lease on
life. "I have more stamina," he says. "It has allowed me to do more
things without having more pain."
The discipline is far from new, born from the mind of
German-born Joseph H. Pilates nearly a century ago. A
sickly child plagued with asthma and rickets, he
obsessed about the perfect body, something to combine the physique of the
ancient Greeks with the meditative strength of the East. The result was
a system of exercises he called contrology, requiring intense concentration and
centered mainly on a strong abdomen and deep stretching. It worked for him.
Pilates became a boxer, diver, skier, gymnast, yoga devotee, and incredible
physical testament to his method.
Pilates taught his method to wounded English soldiers during
World War I, using springs he removed from their hospital beds to support and
assist them as he developed techniques to increase their range of motion.
When Pilates immigrated to the U.S. in 1926, dance titans
George Balanchine and Martha Graham, on the lookout for safe exercises and
rehabilitation fitness for their dancers, embraced Pilates, saving it from
obscurity until the rest of the world could catch on.
Along with the celebrity appeal, the trend toward a mindful
approach to fitness has helped elevate Pilates to the forefront of health clubs
and rehabilitation communities alike.
"People aren't getting what they were looking for in their
traditional health club workouts," says Aliesa George, Pilates instructor
and studio owner in Wichita, Kan. "They don't see their bodies changing
doing step aerobics or running on the treadmill, so they're looking for other
Performed in a variety of combinations and levels of
difficulty, exercises to build what Pilates called the "powerhouse"
engage the mind and body in a fluid and precise rhythm. It's a thinking
"More people want to tune in," says George.
"They're looking for a mental connection. Pilates is something you can't do
while you're thinking about something else."