Looking for a method of exercise that will stretch and strengthen your body?  Pilates may be for you.

The Pilates method originated during World War I as a way to rehabilitate bed-ridden patients.  As a nurse, Joseph Pilates drew from his studies of yoga, Zen meditation and ancient Greek and Roman regimens to create an original set of exercises designed to strengthen and balance the body.   The exercises also encouraged increased flexibility, range of motion and joint mobility, and could all be performed from the confines of a hospital bed.

Pilates practice companion
Alycea Ungaro.
London ; New York : DK Pub., c2011.
Accessible, authoritative, and inspiring, "Pilates Practice Companion" guides people of all abilities in their practice of Pilates to feel energized, toned, and see improved posture.
Pilates illustrated
Portia Page.
Champaign, IL : Human Kinetics, c2011.
Offers sixteen programs with more than 800 full-color photos and 90 exercises for lengthening and strengthening muscles. Provides instruction for learning the exercise at home by focusing primarily on mat work and equipment such as stability ball, stretch bands, and the Pilates ring. Each exercise is accompanied by a sequence of photos depicting the start, movement sequence, and ending position.Included with the pictures is a comprehensive list of cues to help find the correct position and execute the exercise correctly. Modifications and variations are provided for many of the exercises to make them accessible to all skill levels.
Easy pilates for pregnancy : any stage any place any time
Meg Walker. Consultant Judy Fiore. Illustrated by Juliet Percival.
London : Connections, 2010.
During and after pregnancy it's vital to stay fit and healthy, and there's no better way of doing this safely and effectively than through Pilates. Easy Pilates for Pregnancy presents a range of exercise sequences to suit all stages of pregnancy, so you can be sure you're doing the right exercises at the right time. Discover how Pilates can help alleviate those aches and pains so common in pregnancy, and how it can even help promote an easier, shorter labour! There are postnatal routines, too, for getting back into shape after baby arrives. Perfect for helping busy moms-to-be prepare for the big day and beyond, Easy Pilates for Pregnancy has it covered.
The Pilates bible : the most comprehensive and accessible guide to Pilates ever
Lynne Robinson, Lisa Bradshaw and Nathan Gardner ; medical consultant, Kate Fernyhough.
Richmond Hill, Ont. : Firefly Books, 2010, c2009.
The most comprehensive and easily accessible guide to Pilates ever.Participation in Pilates has skyrocketed by more than 500 percent in the last five years. Today 9.5 million Americans do Pilates at least once a week.The Pilates Bible is the modern guide to this superb fitness program. The authors, all expert Pilates instructors, correlate their own practical experience with up-to-date knowledge, new exercises and brand-new modifications supported by recent medical findings.Clear step-by-step photographs show the exercises, and captions provide tips on form and movement. There is a range of workout choices designed for sessions lasting 20 to 30 minutes, 40 to 50 minutes and 60 to 70 minutes.The book includes: The guiding principles and fundamentals of Pilates Beginner, intermediate and advanced mat work General health benefits and benefits for specific medical conditions Pilates for sedentary and active lifestyles, sports and weight training Pilates in the local gym, at work and while traveling Prenatal and postnatal exercises Exercises for menopausal and postmenopausal women A survey of studio equipment and small equipmentDesigned as a practical all-in-one guide, The Pilates Bible is the most authoritative and comprehensive book on Pilates available. Students, practitioners and instructors will find this book indispensable.
Total Pilates : the step-by-step guide to Pilates at home for everybody
Ann Crowther with Helena Petre.
London, U.K. : Duncan Baird Publishers ; New York : Distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Sterling Pub., 2009.
Learn how to achieve optimum health and well-being through a unique combination of Pilates exercises, up-to-the-minute nutritional advice, and relaxation techniques
The core connection : go from fat to flat by using your abs for a total body workout
Chris Robinson.
New York : Simon Spotlight Entertainment, c2009.
The man who appeared on "Oprah" with his fabulously toned core physique reveals the easy, effective workout that will get readers in the best shape of their lives. 8-page full-color photo insert; photos throughout.

The Pilates method has come a long way since its invention over 90 years ago.  Pilates has gained popularity nationwide as a strengthening and conditioning exercise program, in sports training, physical rehabilitation and general fitness.  Because Pilates consists of non-strenuous movements, it is also an ideal workout for pregnant women, older adults, and athletes recovering from injury. 

Pilates benefits the body in several ways:

  • Gives more support to the spine, improving posture
  • Leads to better balance and coordination
  • Lessens pain and stiffness due to arthritis
  • Strengthens muscles without causing stress or strain to joints and ligaments
  • Increases lung capacity and circulation

Also, as with any exercise routine, Pilates can lead to weight loss and increased energy levels.  Pilates differs from other routines, however, in that it focuses on controlled breathing and concentration to enhance the mind-body connection. 

"Movements are planned to relieve the heart, lungs and liver of construction caused by modern day living."

(Joseph Pilates)

Pilates Terminology:

Powerhouse: the abdominal area found between the ribcage and hips

Centering Movements: Pilates exercises that work the center of the body, abdominals and back

Theory of Opposition: Moving the body in two different directions increases resistance and engages more muscle groups.

Yogalates: An exercise that fuses yoga and Pilates

Pilates classes can be found at local fitness center or the YMCA.  Qualified instructors can make Pilates fun, safe, and effective.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff