Mat Pilates: What, why, and how? Why all the Pilates peeps have the best posture.

“Physical fitness can neither be achieved by wishful thinking nor outright purchase.” Joseph Pilates


There is no way you are alive in Southern California, in the West Coast, and for that matter, the East and the South, no matter where you live, there is no way you have not heard the word “P I L A T E S”.


That word is based on the last name of its founder, German-born Joseph Pilates. It is a method of body conditioning focusing on stretching and strengthening while consciously breathing and focusing on total muscle contraction and awareness. In an era where fitness fads come and go and some parties spend too much time and energy trying to reinvent the wheel for whatever irrelevant (to the fitness of clients) reasons, PILATES is a tried and true, practically injury free (as it comes from the world of rehab exercise) method that persists nearly 90 years after its creation because it simply works.


Mat pilates is the original base that leads to the development of the “apparatus”, or what we call today the reformer. Joseph Pilates developed his method in order to heal himself. As a young boy, he suffered from asthma and rickets. He craved vitality and inner strength. He was a student of many philosophies, so the breathing and quality of movement as well as the focus on happiness and self-development through the practice show his experiences with yoga and zen buddhism. His appreciation for just the magnificence of the body as a beautiful, efficient machine align with his studies on the greco-roman world.


The appearance of the APPARATUS/REFORMER comes as a result of one of many life-defining experiences. During the First World War, Pilates worked as an orderly in a hospital on the Isle of Man, where he worked with patients who had lost mobility. He began using the springs that later were used in the apparatus to support limbs while carrying out other rehab exercises. Doctors quickly noticed how clients progressed more quickly while avoiding a large amount of the discomfort that would otherwise be present.


The set of seminal exercises that came out of those experimentations gave way to the classical mat work. Many of the names remain unchanged, such as “The One-Hundred”, “The Single-Leg Stretch”, “The Corkscrew”, “The Can-can”, “Swimming”, etc… and form the basis to an industry that has exploded into the mainstream since the mid to late 90’s, at least in the large coastal cities, and today boasts studios in small towns and large cities alike throughout the entire US.


Joseph Pilates immigrated to the United States in the late 1920’s and opened his first studio in New York City, where he worked closely with the likes of Martha Graham and George Balanchine (where the link between Pilates and the Ballet world begins).


Today, one would be hard-pressed to hear about any type of recovery system that does not include some form of P I L A T E S, whether the name outright is used or not, or about any famous athlete returning from an injury and NOT thanking a Pilates instructor, among other staff, as essential in their prompt and deep healing.


Personally, I have practiced PILATES consistently for over twenty years. This system is for life-long development. I believe it holds a place, next to yoga, as a must, several-time-per-week frequency level of practice system for all athletes, young and old, and people who want to grow old in years but not in physical age. The number one system that exists to prevent/treat/rehab/eliminate back pain.


I personally used it and first fell in love with it when I had an emergency c-section in 2002. To this day, I am an avid practitioner and instructor and credit my no-back-pain ever existence, amazing balance skills, and above-par core strength and stamina to this system. Along with yoga it makes me almost injury-proof. I never thought I would get stronger, more flexible, more skillful, and happier the older I got. If you would have asked me what I thought about that, I would have asked you what you were smoking, according to what society had taught me 50 would be/feel/seem like.


The right practices breed the right quality of life. The only rule is there are no rules. Try a balanced approach. Have common sense. Set achievable goals. Stay challenged. The job is never done. Living is moving.


Come do PILATES with intention and watch your confidence grow. You are guaranteed to be challenged, but with persistence, you will achieve better posture, flexibility, strength, muscular endurance, and mental focus.


Hope to see you on the mat soon.


“The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy.” Joseph Pilates


Nina R.