This page contains the answers to some other frequently asked questions (alias “FAQs”), not already answered elsewhere on the site.
First, here’s a list of the questions it tackles. Either click on the relevant question or scroll down the page to find the corresponding answers.
It takes its name from Joseph Pilates, a German-born emigré to Britain and then America, who devised it in the early part of the last century.
Long popular among dancers, gymnasts and others who knew of it, Pilates has now been discovered by a wider public – from those who want a stronger back or flatter stomach to those with specific injuries or medical problems that Pilates can help; or else, simply those who want to get fit or de-stress.
Pilates is a gentle, non-aerobic exercise method, which lengthens and strengthens the muscles, and improves posture, without stressing the joints or the heart. Indeed, physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors and doctors now recommend Pilates as one of the safest forms of exercise available.
You can learn Pilates either in group sessions, known as mat classes, or in a dedicated studio – like Pilates Central – with expert teachers and specialised, spring-resistance equipment, designed to tone and strengthen your muscles, while placing minimum strain on the joints.
Wherever you learn Pilates, you should make sure that your teacher is properly qualified, since Pilates taught by someone without the right training can do you more harm than good. Yet, many exercise teachers in gyms and elsewhere now include Pilates exercises in their classes, despite themselves never having had any training at all. Our instructors, meanwhile, have had the best training in the business.
Whereas most forms of exercise build the body’s stronger muscles, Pilates exercises work as much or more to strengthen the weaker ones too. The result is a properly balanced body, with better joint mobility, a firm musculature and good, natural posture.
Pilates helps you achieve such posture by strengthening the centre of the body so that it supports your lower back, helping you to stand straight and hold your upper body correctly.
Whereas many kinds of exercise aim only to raise your general fitness, our instructors are able to isolate and strengthen a specific muscle or tackle a particular problem with a rare precision.
Whereas other forms of exercise often cause injuries, our Pilates exercises not only cure injuries but are themselves so controlled and low-impact that they are extremely safe – if taught, that is, by a properly trained instructor. What’s more, the awareness of your body that they develop enables you to avoid the same injuries or problems recurring in the future.
Whereas other forms of exercise promise ‘no gain without pain’, Pilates is a gentle, non-aerobic exercise method, which produces a healthy, toned, mobile body and calm, relaxed mind – and so proves the existence of gain without pain.
- A stronger, healthier back
- A more toned, mobile and flexible body
- A leaner, longer look
- A flatter stomach
- A better body shape
- A better balance between strength and suppleness
- Better posture
- A straighter spine
- A taller gait
- Easier, fuller movement
- Better coordination
- Greater body awareness
- Injury prevention and rehabilitation
- Gain without pain
- Relief from stress
- General fitness
- A sense of calm and well-being
Pilates is particularly suitable for…
- The middle-aged and elderly
- The desk-bound and inactive
- The pregnant and post-natal
- Those needing pre- and post-operation strengthening
- Those referred by their doctor, physio, osteopath, chiropractor or other practitioner
And for those who suffer…
- Back pain, back-ache and other back problems
- Scoliosis/curvature of the spine
- Poor posture and rounded shoulders
- Neck and shoulder pains or problems
- Stiffness, joint pains and muscle pains, whether caused by arthritis/ osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia or other things
- Injuries: sports injuries and others
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Joseph Pilates was born near Dusseldorf in 1880. He was a sickly child who determined to make himself strong and healthy. He took up body-building, to the point where by his teens he was getting work as a model for anatomical drawings.
He was perhaps the first influential figure to combine Western and Eastern ideas about health and physical fitness.
He researched and practised every kind of exercise he could, ranging from classical Roman and Greek exercise regimes to body-building and gymnastics, alongside the the Eastern disciplines of yoga, tai chi, martial arts and Zen meditation.
He studied anatomy and animal movements. He sampled every kind of exercise that he could and carefully recorded the results.
In 1912, aged 32, he left Germany for this country, where he became a professional boxer, an expert skier and diver, taught self-defence to Scotland Yard detectives and found work as a circus acrobat.
On the outbreak of World War I, the British interned him as a German enemy alien. He used his time as an internee to start developing a new approach to exercise and body-conditioning – the start of what is known today as Pilates.
During his internment, he also got the chance to work as a nurse. This, in turn, gave him the chance to experiment by attaching springs to hospital beds, so that patients could start toning their muscles even while they were still bed-bound. Such were the origins of the first Pilates machines, which were shaped like a sliding bed and used springs as resistance.
Returning to Germany after World War I, Pilates worked with pioneers of movement technique such as Rudolph Laban, who created the basic system of dance notation still used today.
In 1923, Pilates moved to America, where he opened his first studio in New York, along with Clara, his wife and assistant, whom he had met on the Atlantic crossing.
His new method was an instant hit, particularly among dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine. Other dancers, who found the Pilates method the best way both to recover from injuries and to prevent their recurrence, also became devotees. Gradually, a wider audience got to hear of it.
Pilates called his technique ‘Controlology’ – only later did it become known by his own surname. He conceived it as a mental as well as a physical conditioning in which individuals could work their bodies to their full potential.
In explaining Controlology’s guiding principle, he liked to quote Schiller: ‘lt is the mind itself which builds the body’.
The Pilates method did not return to Britain until 1970, when it was brought back to this country by Alan Herdman, after the latter had been asked by the London School of Contemporary Dance to visit New York and investigate the methods of Joseph Pilates. Herdman established Britain’s first Pilates studio at The Place in London that year.
‘Joseph Pilates, Exercise Pioneer’, an exhibition of photographs by I.C. Rapoport, is currently receiving its world premiere at Pilates Central.
If you like what you see and want to take things further, we will ask you to complete a form that asks you a series of questions about your medical history, current health, fitness and objectives.
One of our instructors will then assess your posture, alongside the information in your form and devise a unique programme to meet your precise needs.
He or she will then show you how to get started and teach you the basics.
You will find that the exercises are simple, even minimal.
Our instructors will continue to work with you as you progress and start to reap the benefits.
They will also continue to develop and adapt your Pilates routine as your body gradually improves and your needs evolve.
Please do not wear shoes, since they are not allowed on the machines but do wear socks, clean if possible.
Up to 90 minutes each. Private sessions last 60 minutes.
Pilates Central offers equipment-based Pilates rather than mat or group classes. So, we assess you as an individual and then design a bespoke programme to meet your precise needs.
You then follow your own programme under the supervision of our teachers. Beginners get almost individual attention from teachers.
Up to four clients start their session at any one time but each follows his/her own bespoke programme. The studio typically contains between five and 10 clients exercising at any one time.
People do Pilates anywhere from once a week to once a day – but twice a week is common and what we suggest for most clients.
Even if you just take just one session a week, you should try to do at least a few minutes of Pilates – whether at home or work – on a daily basis.
‘In ten sessions’, suggested Joseph Pilates himself, ‘you will feel the difference; in 20 you will see the difference; and in 30 you will have a whole new body’.
Most people do start to feel a difference after 10 sessions, getting the sense, for example, that they are walking taller and moving in a looser, suppler way.
The longer they persist, the more they will tend to see and feel the shape of their body slowly change.
Indeed, one of the beauties of Pilates is that we tailor it to suit each person, whatever their age or physical condition.
Many of our clients are middle-aged or elderly. Indeed, more than a few start doing Pilates specifically because they have reached ‘a certain age’, realised that they no longer take any exercise and suddenly thought, ‘My goodness, I have to start to do something, or else I’ll fall apart’.
Older clients still might have to ask medical advice before taking up Pilates and to start more slowly. Many people, however, do Pilates into their eighties and nineties. A properly tailored Pilates programme is one of the best-known ways to ward off the infirmities of old age. Joan Bakewell, the writer and broadcaster, swears by Pilates for this reason, among others.
Your true age, in the end, of course, is as much a function of how feel as of the date on your birth certificate. As Joseph Pilates himself put it: ‘If, at the age of 30, you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If, at 60, you are supple and strong, then you are young.’
Men, what’s more, tend to be less flexible than women, and so to need Pilates even more.
In fact, almost a third of our clients are male, as are countless celebrity devotees of Pilates, from Hugh Grant to Martin Amis, John Cleese, Ian McKellen, David Beckham and an ever-growing number of famous footballers, rugby players, cricketers and other professional athletes.
In fact, we have an exercise bike in the studio, specifically for the benefit of clients who want to follow their Pilates session with some form of aerobic exercise.
An even better way is to ask what training they have done. Our instructors have done a long and rigorous training, which is more like an old-fashioned apprenticeship.
Wherever you learn Pilates, you should make sure that your teacher is properly qualified, since Pilates taught by someone without the right training can do you more harm than good. Yet, many exercise teachers in gyms and elsewhere now include Pilates exercises in their classes, despite themselves never having had any training at all.
Yes, there are similarities between Pilates and Yoga, partly because Joseph Pilates consciously drew on both Eastern and Western traditions when first developing his method.
However, there are also key differences. Pilates, for example, is more dynamic than Yoga, which places more emphasis on the static holding of certain poses.
Pilates also focuses more on strengthening the deepest layers of abdominal muscles, which form a corset around your torso.
If you have the time, there is no reason why you should not do both and get different benefits from each.
But the answer is simple: no. And so is the reason: Because it works.
Joseph Pilates always said that his method was 50 years ahead of his time The current growth in popularity of Pilates is simply the fulfillment of his longstanding prediction.
In fact, many women first discover Pilates and become clients here either when they are pregnant or have just given birth.
We don’t offer separate classes for either pregnant women or new mothers but what we do instead is something much better and more customised, which is to design a tailored Pilates programme to meet the precise, individual needs of each woman. We then help her follow and adapt it at each new stage.
You may need to do Pilates in a modified or gentler way while pregnant, and to make sure you stop the moment that you feel any discomfort.
A properly tailored Pilates programme, however, can be the ideal way to lessen or avoid the back-pain commonly experienced during late pregnancy and then to enable your body to regain its shape rapidly after birth.