Joseph Pilates was a seemingly unusual man. A circus performer and boxer born in Germany, he was placed in forced internment in England at the beginning of the First World War and developed his exercise methods through working with injured detainees, using only what materials were available to him (including things like bed springs, which he used to create resistance). After the war he travelled to New York, where his methods (which he called ‘controlology’) became popular with injured dancers from nearby studios, and he ended up spending 40 years teaching in America.
Pilates is now practised all over the world, but what actually is it? Well, pilates involves stretching and strengthening your whole body, and can improve your flexibility, posture and balance. It combines yoga with Western forms of exercise, as well as elements of martial arts. Sounds tricky, but pilates can be one of the easiest forms of exercise to get into, and will continue to challenge you as you develop your skills.
So if you’re looking to recover from an injury, work on your flexibility or simply improve your general health, pilates is well worth a try. We’ve picked out a few of the best places to get involved – whether you’re looking for a beginners’ class, something more advanced or even a pilates holiday.
The Pilates Studio
The Pilates Studio is a dedicated group of teachers helping people with health, fitness and rehabilitation. As well as teaching, they’ll make sure you understand how and why pilates works, and help you to improve your lifestyle forever, not just in the short term. Try beginners or advanced classes, one to one tuition and machine-based classes.
My Body Studios
At My Body Studios you can take pilates to the next level. They offer everything from beginners’ workshops to different versions of pilates including reformer classes, which use specialist equipment developed from the ideas of Joseph Pilates himself. It involves working against the resistance of springs, straps and pulleys to enhance your workout experience.
East Boldon www.mybodystudios.co.uk
Linda Macaulay has been offering pilates retreats at Boswell Farm in Devon since 2000. Their weekend packages are perfect for renewal, relaxation and fun, and include classes with experienced and professional instructors, fresh, organic catering and access to 45 acres of grounds – including a tennis court and a lake. www.boswell-farm.co.uk
Tune Out Pilates Retreats run weekend retreats where healthy food, peace and quiet, and of course lots of pilates are the order of the day. Options include picturesque retreats on the beautiful Suffolk coast and retreats in the countryside of Sussex.www.tuneoutretreats.com
To really get away from it all, try one of Sanctuary Spa Holidays’ Chiva Som pilates retreats in Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand. You’ll stay next to a white sand beach, enjoy luxurious accomodation and organic food. www.sanctuaryspaholidays.co.uk
Mermaid Wellbeing’s Luxe Pilates Holidays take place in the quiet Mallorcan town of Selva. There are morning classes on the terrace of the boutique, villa-style hotel, and you can take part in activities including visits to local vineyards, cycle tours and cookery workshops. www.mermaidwellbeing.com
Pilates can be used effectively to aid recovery from sports injuries. We spoke to Chris Barrett from Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic
Chris explains that there are two types of muscles within the body – the mobilising muscles and the stabilising muscles. ‘You are probably already familiar with the mobilising muscles, for example the biceps and hamstrings muscles,’ he says. ‘These muscles produce big, powerful movements and enable us to move.’ Underneath these muscles though, there are those which work to stabilise the body. They’re designed to work at a low intensity all the time in order to hold us up against gravity and maintain the joints in a stable position to prevent injury. ‘These different types of muscles should work in harmony to enable us to move efficiently and not cause injury,’ says Chris. ‘However, for many of us this is not the case. Injury and pain can cause the stabilising muscles to stop working properly, and pilates is a great way to get them to re-engage.’ www.newcastlesportsinjury.co.uk