By Priya Saraiya February 2008 Pilates, a fitness technique that is making waves, strengthens the core of the body, and thereby corrects imbalances In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20 sessions, you will see the difference. In 30 sessions, you will have a whole new body… This is not some exaggerated advertising copy but a genuine promise made by the founder of the fastest growing exercise technique in the world. In the 1920s, Joseph H Pilates (1880-1967) devised a unique set of fitness principles and called it Controllogy which means integration of the mind, body and spirit through the proper use of muscles and breathing in order to control the whole. A traumatic childhood filled with asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever fuelled Joseph’s dream towards attaining complete physical fitness. By 14, he gained enough physical strength to model for anatomical magazines. By 21, he developed Controllogy and in 1920, he successfully set up his own studio in New York. He combined Eastern philosophies like yoga and Zen to create a set of 500 exercises called Pilates (pronounced as pih-lah-teez) that aim at strengthening the core of the body, often referred to as the ‘powerhouse’, that includes the abdomen, lower back, hips and buttocks. Joseph believed that a strong core keeps the body stable and allows the body to move gracefully and provides support to the spine. Pilates has been the best kept secret among the dancing community, and has helped many great dancers of our age like George Balanchine, Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham. It particularly resurrected Duncan’s dying career when several doctors wrote off her chronic muscular pains as incurable. Celebrities such as Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Sharon Stone, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jodie Foster also have turned to this system to gain the right form and shape. Pilates operates on the principles of breathing, proper alignment, centring, concentration, control and precision, stabilising, fluidity and integration. These principles come together to create a holistic body-mind experience. Pilates is normally performed on a mat or using special Pilates machines. To further understand how Pilates works, I visit Marazban Doctor’s compact and minimally decorated studio in South Mumbai. The studio’s main aim is to help people lead pain-free lives. Marazban was passionate about fitness from the age of 13. However, circumstances pushed him into the job market where he was stuck behind the desk for almost 10 years. But Marazban never lost sight of his dream, and started training himself in the fitness field. He earned a certification through the American Council on exercise. With his wife’s support, he quit his job and embarked on his new journey of fitness. He subsequently attended a health and fitness instructor workshop conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine. He came in contact with several medical professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and joined hands with them to treat special populations. Presently, he works as a clinical exercise specialist at his Colaba studio. He trains people with special needs after they have been cleared by the doctors for exercise. He also treats people with injuries, lifestyle conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, muscular imbalances and even partial paralysis. Having studied under Michael King of the Pilates Institute of UK, he is qualified for fundamental matwork techniques. Wellness being his focus, Pilates is one of the tools he uses along with other techniques towards that end. Pilates helps to strengthen the muscles in their naturally lengthened state as compared to traditional exercises which contract the muscles in almost each and every movement. Pilates also helps in toning the girth and can help in reducing the waist marginally. For those medically cleared, the exercises can also help in prenatal care and postnatal recoveries. What is the difference between Pilates and yoga? Marazban explains that while yoga aims at increasing the flexibility of the body and is more therapeutic and spiritual in nature, Pilate’s focuses on the mind and body connection, where each movement is controlled by putting one’s mind to it, thereby improving awareness, posture and gaining strength. However, when done together, one complements the other. So far Marazban has been successful in training quite a few people, all of whom have benefited from Pilates, whether in a group set-up or privately. The clients have an improved posture, muscle strength and tone as a result of the training. It has helped people get relief from back and neck problems. A certain client who has been practising Pilates for around two years has recovered from a weak back after being bedridden for a month. Another client tells me that Pilates helped her to overcome a serious congenital back problem and a condition called scoliosis when most gymnasiums failed to make a difference. Also, people have been able to resume outdoor sports like horse-riding and squash after the training. Surprisingly, women dominate Marazban’s clientele, but he demurs that Pilates has no sex bar or age bar. He’s even trained a six-year-old, he tells me. Another popular Mumbai Pilates trainer is Nawaz Modi Singhania who teaches it in her fitness centre called Body Art. She opines that Pilates is more complex than other forms of exercise and teaches you about breathing with movement, balance, body mechanics, strength, spatial awareness, positioning of the body and flexibility. Exercises are performed from a reclining, standing, kneeling or sitting position. For the full benefit of the method, clients need to flow from one movement to the next, building stamina and cardiovascular fitness. Pilates has earned several admirers internationally and is gradually making its mark in India. Those interested in practising Pilates should look for a qualified trainer, a matter of crucial importance. The best part about Pilates is that it suits those seeking physical rehabilitation, as much as it works for those wanting to gain strength and proper posture. Whatever the case, Pilates is meant for anybody and everybody who wishes to lead a healthy and pain-free lifestyle. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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