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What is Pilates?

It’s been around for some time…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you ’ve probably already heard of Pilates exercise! Although now mainstream, Pilates has been around since the 20th century, but for decades was kept underground, practiced only by dancers and performers . The technique was created by Joseph Pilates, an eccentric but talented German man with a rather ‘zestful’ enthusiasm for health and fitness.

Pilates exercises were originally created as a workout, not simply a therapy. The method was designed as an artful and fluid series of controlled movements strongly coordinated with the breath to improve flexibility, strength, body control and endurance. There is a strong emphasis on posture, alignment, core stability, coordination, breathing and balance.

A little bit about Joseph

Joseph Pilates had a keen interest in exercise techniques in his early years, but it wasn’t until WWI where he was held at the Knockaloe internment camp on the Isle of Man for three to four years that he developed his exercise method , practicing on his fellow internees.
Plenty has been written about Joseph Pilates, so we won’t spend too much time here, but if you like, you can read more here>

(Above) Original footage of Jo Pilates’ earlier mat classes held at the infamous Jacob’s Pillow – home of American dance in Massachusetts.

(Above) Original footage of Joseph Pilates and Eve Gentry

Pilates equipment

A variety of equipment is used when performing studio Pilates (as opposed to mat Pilates). These pieces have been modernised and continue to be improved, but the essence of the equipment still stays the same.

Popular pieces include:

  • Reformer
  • Trap Table (Cadillac)
  • Barrel
  • Wunda Chair
  • Spine Corrector
  • Ped-o-Pull
  • Ladder Barrel

Pilates principles

There are a variety of styles of Pilates taught today. There’s clinical Pilates, popular with physiotherapists, where a smaller number of exercises are taught with a less holistic approach. There are mat classes where little to no equipment is used. Recently, group reformer classes have gained popularity, where each participant will use a reformer while guided through a series of Pilates exercises by one instructor. And, of course, there is the traditional studio Pilates where the participant works under the tuition of an instructor. This can be in a one-on-one capacity or in a group situation, where no more than four participants share the attention of one instructor.

No matter which type of Pilates you choose, the Pilates principles will always remain the same. They are:

Concentration: More than just a physical workout, Pilates focuses on mindful movement, helping you to stay in the moment and focused. By concentrating, you get the most out of each movement as well as enhanced body awareness.

Centring: Focusing on the centre of your body, calming down both body and mind. With Pilates, the ‘powerhouse’ is the centre of all movements.

Control: Proper control over every part of the body is essential with Pilates, ensuring correct form and that no part of your body is unattended. You are in control of every movement.

Precision: Executing one exercise with precision is better than several performed sloppily. This is why excellent tuition is essential when learning Pilates.

Breathing: Deep, controlled diaphragmatic breathing is essential to the Pilates technique. It helps activate blood circulation and awakens all cells and muscles.

Alignment: Good posture and alignment are always addressed with Pilates. Throughout your workout, you must stay mindful of the positioning of your whole body, particularly your head, neck, spine and pelvis while allowing proper breathing and sound technique.

Integration: Rather than focusing on just one element, integrating the principles of mindfulness, control, centring, breath, alignment and precision is essential for a successful mind-body Pilates workout.

An interesting note on legal affairs

In the US in October 2000, “Pilates” was classified as an unregulated method of exercise. As a result of this ruling, the Pilates Method Alliance was formed. This alliance is a professional association for the Pilates community created with a purpose to “provide an international organisation to connect teachers, teacher trainers, studios and facilities dedicated to preserving and enhancing the legacy of Joseph H Pilates and his exercise method by establishing standards, encouraging unity, and promoting professionalism.” – PMA

Similarly, the Pilates regulatory organisation Pilates Alliance Australiasia was established, and I maintain a Level IV membership – the highest certified individual membership level.

Why private Pilates tuition?

Not all Pilates classes are the same…

That being said, let’s not get too critical! Any exercise is better than no exercise, but the more you fall in love with the Pilates technique, the more you’ll realise that a good Pilates class is, for many, far better than your average gym class.

As Pilates has entered the mainstream, sometimes the quality and principles of the technique have diluted and you may be forgiven if you thought, some of the participants look like muscle-bound gym-goers.

However, a good Pilates class (with good tuition) produces a different type of aesthetic. Much as you can predict a swimmer, ballet dancer or footballer, a Pilates body has its own characteristics. Compared to a gym body (where the emphasis is on building singular muscle groups, and focusing more on limbs than the body as a whole) you can expect a ‘Pilates body’ to:

  • appear graceful and elegant – as posture and alignment are paramount
  • be more flexible, streamlined and dancer-like in appearance – as Pilates works the body through a comprehensive range of movements, with plenty of stretching
  • be extremely toned, but not bulky – due to the above focus on range of movement
  • have greater body awareness – due to the concentration and control regularly practised

Private tuition is an excellent option for anyone wanting one-on-one attention to get the most out of the technique, and their bodies.


Private Pilates is also useful if you:

  • have not exercised for some time
  • are harbouring an injury or mobility issues
  • feel uncomfortable with a group exercise environment

Book an appointment

If you’d like to find out more about private Pilates classes, please call me on 0419 040 053 or fill out the form below. I’ll be in touch within one business day!