Sunday, July 10, 2022

Your good health starts now with Pilates

Joseph Pilates

How Pilates started 

Pilates, a 100-year-old mind-body discipline, is all the rage at the moment.  

Joseph Pilates, a German immigrant to England and America created this form of movement in the 1920’s as physical therapy for rehabilitating soldiers from the 1st World War.  He constructed apparatus with springs and attached it to hospital beds to enable them to move with resistance, keeping them mobile whilst lying down and recovering from their injuries.  

Famous ballet dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine used Pilates to recover from dance injuries and to help them stay strong.  

This was a new approach to exercise at the time and it focused on 7 principles: concentration, good alignment, centering, breathing, coordination (flowing movements), core stability and strength.  

The name has changed, originally Joseph Pilates called it “Contrology” but now the name Pilates has been adopted.

Modern Pilates is all about precise controlled movements (often lying down) whilst adhering to correct alignment and posture, it increases flexibility and functionality of different muscle groups and works the whole body at once. 

It can increase your recovery period after an injury if done with a good practitioner, a great combination for injury recovery is a physio/pilates rehabilitation expert. These days celebrities and sportspeople (rugby players, equestrians, swimmers, cyclists to name a few) are fans of Pilates as the exercises can be modified or structured precisely for their requirements.

A Pilates class. photo supplied


There are many pilates classes around and it is indeed becoming more popular as people realise the importance of good alignment, staying healthy and strong through our ageing years and all done with a low-impact exercise regime.  Women and men of all ages are students of Pilates all around the world. There is no age limit.

There are classes that are mat-based and use additional pieces of equipment such as spikey and ova balls, therabands, rollers, and the titivating magic circle to name a few.  There are classes using the reformer (a table with resistance springs and a sliding carriage) and other equipment such as the Wunda chairs and Tower units. All these pieces of equipment enable the student to hone in more deeply on a specific muscle group.

There are classical pilates classes and ones which are more fast-paced, like a mini-cardio workout. On-line classes became very popular through lockdowns, but nothing beats a face-to-face group class, even a one-on-one class where you get individual attention.


Walking is also more popular these days with apps to reach your 10,000 steps a day aimed at getting people moving. The health benefits of this are widely known.  Pilates is a wonderful addition to this as it requires the 7 principles to make a movement and definitely takes more

concentration. Often we walk without thinking about our posture!  Also some people are unable to walk far for whatever reason and Pilates keeps the whole body strong and toned.

Anne-Maree Therkleson Pilates Teacher. Photo supplied

Anne-Maree Therkleson a pilates instructor based in Richmond and Mapua, prefers the small classes and has no more than 7 in a class ensuring verbal and tactile feedback to ensure proper form.  

Anne-Maree said “The best pilates classes in my view are the ones where the attention to detail is paramount, low numbered slow repetitions of movements focussing on good alignment and core stability, and small classes so that the instructor can get around everyone and make adjustments if needed.  Also the instructor should be taking note of any unease in your body and finding ways to help you overcome that through the exercises, by recommending alternatives and modifications.  It's not a one size fits all scenario."

She went on "If you are starting your Pilates journey, regardless of your fitness levels, I would recommend starting with a beginners course so you can learn the principles first before launching into the more difficult exercises.  Even strong athletes find Pilates challenging at a basic level as you are relearning to recruit the correct or most useful muscles for the exercise. Often we have acquired habitual use of the "not so helpful" muscles to do a movement and that's how unease in the body starts."

A Pilates class. Photo supplied

Anne-Maree’s classes can be found on her website  

Yes she is also a dance teacher and notes that Pilates is “essential training for dancers and for non-dancers -  it will help you move and feel better!”  Her Term 3 classes starts on the 26th July and "now may just be the time for you to start thinking about your Pilates journey and how you want to be in years to come … strong, flexible and connected to your body.  Your good health starts now!"

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