Pilates was invented by Joseph H. Pilates, a German gymnast, during WWI and was originally called 'Contrology'. With his system of exercises focusing on conditioning the entire body he sought to rehabilitate veterans of the war believing that their mental and physical health was connected. In England in 1912 he was arrested as an "enemy alien" and sent to confinement during which time he refined his exercises by using springs for resistance and support. This was the beginning of developing what was to become six different pieces of apparatus. In 1926, Joseph immigrated to the US and opened a studio in New York. There his practice gained popularity among performers, dancers and New York's elite. During his lifetime the practice was never extremely popular or acknowledged for its health benefits which caused him distress. After his death his students began teaching the practice throughout the US and it grew into the popular technique of today.
Pilates focuses on the concept of the "unified body" using precise movements geared towards the strengthening of core muscles. The exercises center on muscles used to maintain posture, improve balance and support the spine. Pilates also teaches awareness of the length and alignment of the spine and strengthens torso muscles to improve stability. The basic principles of Pilates include alignment, breathing, centering, concentration, control, precision, efficiency, and flexibility.
Those who show a basic proficiency in Pilates are eligible for training to become an instructor. Teacher certification programs can range anywhere from 50 to 600 hours. While there is no set framework or standardization for training as a Pilates instructor, providers generally undergo two components of certification. The first is Pilates mat certification, which involves the mastery of basic mat exercises and how to adapt them to different types of students. Upon successful completion of a written exam as well as a teaching demonstration, providers are then permitted to pursue comprehensive Pilates certification, which includes knowledge of all equipment. Providers often pursue additional training in specialized Pilates rehabilitation exercises, but the amount of training can vary greatly by provider.
Credentials and Regulation Bodies
Currently there is no official accreditation or regulation body for Pilates. However, the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) has come forth with a rigorous certification exam approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies that instructors can take. A PMA certified Pilates instructor meets the high professional standards of the PMA. In addition the United States Pilates Association (USPA) approves the New York Pilates Studio certification process; however, this is only available in 8 USPA training centers around the country.
The United States Pilates Association (USPA) is the main national association for Pilates instructors. It established the first official educational training system for Pilates instructors with its New York Pilates Studio certification process. The Pilates Method Alliance is an international organization which seeks to promote the profession of Pilates instructors and also establish international standards in the field.
Pilates can be taken in a group class format or in private sessions. If it is at a fitness club, it is usually included in your membership. Paid group classes are $20 on average. Private yoga sessions can average $60 to $80 per hour.