Pilates Classes

By Frank Bolger - Last update

Get Daily news and updates directly to your Email

Pilates is a popular and different method of keeping your body toned and flexible. We explain how and why it works.

Pilates classes teach a physical fitness system that aims to build flexibility and strength and promote ease and efficiency of movement. It differs from other exercise regimes in that it focuses on certain core muscles that keep the body balanced. In particular, Pilates exercises are concerned with the correct alignment of the spine and the abdominal and torso muscles, which helps alleviate and prevent back pain.

The Pilates Method (more commonly known as simply Pilates) was developed in the early 20th century by a German fitness expert called Joseph Pilates. Pilates was apparently a small child, who was encouraged by his prize-winning gymnast father and naturopath mother to develop his own exercise regimes. He studied subjects such as yoga, Zen and ancient Greek and Roman regimens and by the age of 14 he was fit enough to get work modelling for anatomy charts.

Pilates lead an eventful life, working as a circus performer, getting interned as an ‘enemy alien’ in the UK during WWI and then training boxers such as World heavyweight champion Max Schmeling. He was continually refining his techniques and practices, and by the time he moved to the USA in 1926 what we know now as Pilates was almost fully developed.

Instead of performing many repetitions of each exercise, Pilates argued for fewer, more precise movements, requiring control and form. There are more than 500 specific exercises and Pilates claimed to be creating a method of total body conditioning that featured perfect body alignment and control along with correct breathing and improved mental concentration. In fact Pilates was originally called ‘Contrology’, due to its complete coordination of body, mind and spirit.

The most frequent form of Pilates exercise is called matwork. This involves a series of stretching and controlled resistance calisthenic motions or exercises performed without weights or apparatus on a padded mat. While to the untrained eye it might appear as if the person is trying to swim strangely through very dense air, in fact the movements are calibrated and designed precisely for maximum benefit.

Pilates devotees report feeling taller, lighter and revitalised and also experience concrete improvements such as toned muscles, better posture and improved strength in the lower back. Pilates is also used for injury prevention and rehabilitation, as well as a treatment for such afflictions as arthritis, osteoporosis, orthopaedic injuries and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Anyone interested in taking a part-time pilates course has plenty of options. Pilates classes are held in fitness and community centres all over Ireland. People with different levels of fitness and flexibility are all encouraged to attend. That doesn’t mean it is an easy option, a full pilates workout will still prove pretty taxing. However the benefits should be real and considerable.

Frank Bolger

Stained Glass classes
Addiction Studies