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Pilates is an exercise program that focuses on the core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and are essential to providing support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of neutral alignment of the spine and strengthening the deep postural muscles that support this alignment, which are important to help alleviate and prevent back pain.
Pilates is an exercise system named after its originator, Joseph Pilates. Mr. Pilates developed this system in the early 1900’s to improve his health and to support the health of fellow World War I internees. Later, he incorporated the resistance of springs into rehabilitation programs for hospitalized patients, and then translated the use of springs into machines and created the unique equipment now used in the exercise system.
Important principles of the Pilates exercise program include:
Initially the Pilates exercise program was primarily used by professional dancers, who appreciated improved strength, balance and flexibility. In the 1980’s Pilates was re-discovered and has now become a popular form of exercise for anyone interested in its health benefits.
The exercise system is usually taught in one of two formats:
Usually taught as part of a group class, mat exercises primarily focus on strengthening the muscles of the trunk and hip and increasing the flexibility of both the spine and hips. While the scope of the mat program is limited compared to the machines, there are many mat exercises that illustrate the Pilates principles. Lately, Pilates has merged with other movement techniques, such as yoga, or use of an exercise ball. This promotes creative integration of the Pilates principles into a greater range of exercises in the mat class setting.