Though referred to as yoga, the Pilates exercise regime has no connection with it and works on entirely different approaches. The common factor between yoga and Pilates programs is their emphasis on mental focus and breath control during exercise. Some refer to Pilates as ‘yoga with movement,’ and others as ‘yoga with machines.’
George Pilates, a German, was a sickly child who managed to improve his health with dedicated exercise programs. As a nurse during the First World War he was looking after the internees. He developed his system of exercises during this time. In 1926 he and his wife opened an exercise school in New York and never looked back. Now it is the top method of keeping fit. Initially, many dancers flocked to his studio to get a supple, strong and balanced body. Now his system has over 500 centers throughout the United States.
His basic approach to exercise was maintaining correct posture while exercising, with particular reference to the spine. The muscles that support the spine, like the back and stomach muscles, get a good workout. He uses breathing techniques to keep the mind focused and increase efficiency. The movements flow from the spine and posture, and balance predominates.
Initially he used the help of some springs. Now over the years many Pilates machines have been developed. These use springs, pulleys and weights, and over the years have become very complicated.
The Pilates exercise program is sweeping over the United States with so much enthusiasm that there are long waiting lists in most studios. There is an acute shortage of trained instructors.
There are three pieces of equipment that are used with Pilates exercise – Reformer, Cadillac and Wunda chair. Individual studios have come up with their own specific machines also. But it is not always necessary to use equipment. There are programs, though limited in effect, that can be done on a simple mat.
The merger of yoga techniques with Pilates exercise enhances its effect and appeal to the public.