An Introduction to Pilates


Pilates is a relatively new form of exercise in comparison to yoga; however, pilates has many benefits in its own right and might be a more suitable form of exercise for some people than yoga. It can be practiced by nearly everyone, no matter how old or young you are; in fact, many people who practice pilates are able to remain active for a longer period in life.

History of Pilates

The practice of pilates was founded by Joseph H. Pilates during World War I (1914 – 1918). Joseph Pilates was a German national who suffered from ill health as a child; however, this did not stop him from becoming an athlete, as he worked to strengthen his body. During World War I, he designed a series of exercises and equipment to help mobilize injured soldiers; this led to the eventual design of over 500 exercises known as the Pilates Method.

After the war Joseph Pilates moved to New York where he opened a studio to teach the Pilates Method; many dancers were the original followers of this form of exercise (source).  Joseph Pilates believed in the concept that both physical and mental health were closely entwined.

Pilates vs. Yoga

Although both pilates and yoga focus on physical and mental well-being, pilates is more of a resistance exercise than yoga; pilates focuses on improving body strength, flexibility and body awareness. Pilates also uses specially-designed exercise equipment, although it is also possible to carry out pilates with mat work and the use of resistance bands and exercise balls at home. Both yoga and pilates concentrate on breathing work, energy flows and control.

Benefits of Pilates

Pilates has a number of benefits; Christine Binnendyk, in Ageless Pilates, states that you can improve your body with pilates practice in as little as 15 minutes a day. Age is not a barrier to the practice of pilates. Benefits of pilates include:

  • help with pain
  • reduce stress levels
  • increases flexibility
  • increases range of functions
  • low impact exercise
  • aims to build core strength and endurance.

As pilates is a relatively “new” form of exercise, compared to the centuries-old practice of yoga, few studies have been done to scientifically prove the actual benefits of pilates, but many people feel that pilates does improve their health on one level or another.

Types of Pilates

Although the original vision of Joseph Pilates was to work with specially-adapted equipment to carry out exercises, one of the most popular ways to practice yoga today is through mat exercises. Mat exercises may incorporate the use of an exercise ball and/or resistance bands, similar to those use in physical therapy rehabilitation. It is also possible to combine the practice of yoga and pilates – yoga pilates.

Where to Practice Pilates

You can find pilates classes in most towns and cities, although it is more common to find pilates classes that concentrate on mat exercises than those that use specially-adapted equipment. You can also practice pilates in your own home; all you need is a yoga mat, a bit of space and a basic understanding of the exercises. Wear comfortable clothing such as leggings, sweatpants, shorts, tank tops and T-shirts. Like yoga, pilates is practiced in bare feet. Many women like to practice pilates because it is good for toning the body without making you too bulky (source).

Cautions for Practicing Pilates

Consult your doctor before practicing pilates if you have a medical condition, are pregnant, a child or elderly; although there is no reason why people with these conditions might not be able to practice some form of pilates, each individual is different. If you want to try something other than yoga, but don’t want to lose some of the benefits of yoga, give pilates a try. It might just be the exercise for you!

Photo by Roo Reynolds


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