Get Up, Get Moving, Get to Pilates!

Part 1:  An Introduction to Pilates

Most people have heard of the “new fitness craze” called PILATES, but few are aware that there was a man who invented the method over 100 years ago. 

Joseph Pilates was a pioneer, a visionary, a self-proclaimed “physical culturist” and above all, a teacher.  Joe believed people need a level of physical fitness that allows us to use our bodies to the fullest.  He defined his method, “Contrology” as “the complete coordination of Body, Mind and Spirit.”  Only when all three parts of the human complex are working together, can we achieve our greatest deeds. 

After a lifetime of teaching others his method, he was invited to Washington, D.C. and claimed he could even cure President Kennedy’s back pain.  Joe never got the chance.  He passed away in 1967 at the age of 87, leaving a fitness method and his wife, Clara Pilates, to carry on what he believed…that each man and woman was responsible for their own happiness.  He said the first requisite to that happiness is “Physical Fitness, the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”

After Joe was gone, Clara kept teaching.  Students of Clara and Joe began to teach as well, and schools of Pilates began to form.  Now there are so many schools that one can hardly count them all!  The search is no longer to find a teacher of the Pilates Method, but to find one who teaches well.  That challenge is especially evident to those of us who suffer from chronic ailments, including neck pain, back pain, shoulder or knee pain.  Yes, I did say “us”.

In the summer of 2004, I was driving an automobile that was hit on the driver’s side of the vehicle.  Working as an orthopedic assistant in a large physician’s practice in Florida, I was acquainted with the best spine surgeons, neurologists, physiotherapists and massage therapists in the county.  After several therapies, including drugs that were unable to manage my pain, I discovered Pilates.  For the first time in months, my pain started to change.  I could move better, sleep better and work better.  I wanted to learn more - I needed to learn more.  Every teacher has their own story of how they came to Pilates, which may help determine how you choose one.

If you are looking for a Pilates studio, there are some important questions to have answered by your prospective teacher:
1. Are you a certified (dipl.) teacher? 
2. Where have you been certified and did your program cover anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics? 
3. Can you explain why Pilates works?

Despite its reputation as corrective exercise and therapy, people do get injured doing Pilates.  That’s why it is important to choose a good teacher.  There are a lot of teachers who are not certified, but really love Pilates and understand it in their own body.  That may or may not make them a good teacher, but the Pilates world is struggling to gain credibility.  The teachers who are teaching without a true certification put the whole community at risk. There are also people teaching Pilates who have done only a weekend workshop.  That truly is not enough time to understand the depth of the method.  Those teachers are often teaching in large gyms, where the class size is unlimited and there isn’t much personal attention to the details of the exercises or the details of your body.  It’s true that many are not teaching creatively and appropriately to those attending their classes.


It is good to know some of the big names in Pilates:  Stott, Peak, Balanced Body, Power Pilates, the PhysicalMind Institute, Fletcher Pilates.  However, even if your prospective teacher went through one of the big programs, that doesn’t guarantee they covered the valuable lessons of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics.  Nor does it guarantee they’re a good teacher.  “Where” may not be as important as “how long” a teacher has studied and worked in Pilates or related movement studies.

Pilates works because of simple laws of physics, and how those apply to human movement patterns.  The ideas of length, focus, rhythm and concentration transfer into tension, torsion, work and power. Language becomes movement, movement becomes tactile through tension and that sensation leads to alignment.  Better alignment gives us better function, better posture, and physical freedom.   

 “Physical Fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”  Are you Physically Fit?

Author:  Lisa Nicastri, lisa_closeup_100x86.jpg
Central Michigan University Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine (1999), Certified Athletic Trainer (NATABOC, 2000),
Certified Pilates Teacher with the PhysicalMind Institute (2006),
Continuing education includes:
Ron Fletcher Pilates Workshop – London (2008)
Open Studio Week Pilates Powerhouse NW – Seattle (2008)
Pilates Excel – Geneva (2008),
Michael Miller Pilates Workshops – Zurich (2009).

Lisa teaches at pilatesfit in Zurich.   http://www.pilatesfit.ch/