If you are new to Pilates you should know that it has been around for a while, its origins in Mönchengladbach, a small town near Dusseldorf, Germany, where Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born. Pilates was an eccentric inventor who believed in the power of the mind well before we understood anything about brain plasticity. It was during his internment in WWI and after 1914 that he began devising his system of exercises that we now recognize as “Contrology”. He eventually settled in New York City in 1925 where he and his wife Clara opened their gym at 939 Eight Ave., amidst several dance studios and rehearsal spaces. A pioneer in his time, he understood the benefits of exercise and healthy living. Today when someone asks me, “What is Pilates? Is it like Yoga? Gymnastics? Weight training?” I’m never sure how to answer, exactly. The truth is, Pilates is a little like all of the above with a major emphasis on full bodied movement centred around correcting muscle imbalances.
A muscle imbalance is when specific muscles in the body are stronger or more developed than others. This can happen as a result of an unbalanced exercise program, exercising with improper form, bad posture, inactivity, repeat activities of daily life, such as sitting, holding children as well as genetic factors. Joe believed in natural movements. according to Carola Trier, a longtime student of Joe’s and a teacher of his work, “The method emphasizes restoring the body to true balance, ease and economy of movement.”
Strengthening muscles is generally beneficial but focusing excessively on some areas of the body and neglecting others can lead to problems. Muscle imbalances can lead to physical issues such as chronic pain, limited mobility and an unbalanced, deteriorated appearance. These imbalances lead to an increased risk of injury, due to a lack of stability. Instability increases damage to joints, muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and the surrounding connective tissue.
Muscles usually come in pairs: one is in charge of pushing and one in charge of pulling. While one muscle contracts (the agonist), the other muscle relaxes (the antagonist), in order to allow the body part to move in a full range of motion . If one of the muscles in a pair is more developed than the other, it will contract more and tighten up, without a strong enough muscle to counteract it.
You may have heard of tensegrity structures and as it pertains to biological structures, biotensegrity. Our muscles, bones, ligaments, fascia and cell membranes are held together by the interconnected relationship that forms the basis of compressive and tensioned forces in the body. The human spine is actually a tensegrity structure! Tensegrity structures that are in balance provide the maximum amount of strength and can withstand stress.
Poor movement patterns, muscle imbalances and lack of awareness can result in muscle imbalance, a sloppy movement practice and can prevent correcting or identifying postural inefficiencies. If, for example, your shoulders are rounded and you are doing planks or pushups incorrectly or your trainer tells you to “round your shoulders” because they learned to give that cue to ten other people as a broad correction, you inadvertently worsen your posture, overlook the importance of activating intrinsic, stabilizing muscles and overwork stronger muscles which leads to a continued cycle of muscle imbalance. The Fundamentals Series is a sequence of essential movement skills suited to individual bodies and restores individual bodies to healthy alignment. Our supportive studio environment enhances concentration and focus and our instructors guide students through specific Pilates techniques that can be felt using specialized props and apparatus. The use of props and apparatus provide students with the necessary neurological feedback that ensures balanced, musculoskeletal development.
Everyone needs a starting point but not everyone is considered a “beginner” or is de-conditioned. Some of our students have come to us with previous Pilates experience, not exactly “novices”. The Fundamentals Series provides the foundational skills of the Classical Method. Fundamental skills can be revisited anytime and we have seen some of the strongest bodies humbled in this series.
Our Fundamentals Series is now open for registration. Reserve your spot in an 8 week series. **Currently ALL our programs are limited to 3 participants in a single class or session. For more information please contact us directly by email or phone.
Marlene Amado is the Director and Owner of Reform Pilates, who came to Pilates first as an aspiring dancer and certified as a STOTT Pilates Instructor. She has worked for 19 years in studios with athletes as well as in clinic settings with rehabilitation clients before completing the classical Pilates Advanced Teacher Training Program at The Pilates Centre. She is also recognized nationally as a Certified Pilates Teacher (NCPT).