Pilates Instructor- A comprehensive look at a career instructing this life-changing form of exercise.

Allied Health World had a conversation with Pilates instructor and lifelong fitness enthusiast, Graza Doyle. Talking with Graza allowed us to take a closer look at how this decades-old form of physical training has in recent years become recognized for its ability to change lives. Drawing from her many years of involvement in the fitness industry, Graza provides thoughtful responses to the questions most frequently asked by aspiring Pilates instructors and offers her uniquely experienced perspective on the career in practice:

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a method of exercise performed with fluid, flowing movements that draw energy from the deep torso muscles at the body’s core. The Pilates method incorporates both floor exercises, and exercises performed with specially designed Pilates-specific exercise machines and equipment. Pilates is defined by elegant and graceful movements performed with almost dance-like qualities of control and precision. The exercises seek to strengthen the core muscles that surround and support the spine based on the understanding that all movement done in proper form originates at the core. Based on this understanding the original pioneers of Pilates coined the term “powerhouse” to describe the core muscles. This term is still used by today’s modern

The six principles of Pilates; breathing, centering, concentration, control, precision, and flow, place a unique focus on movement that is done with perfect form and full presence of mind.

To students of Pilates teacher training programs, and certified practitioners alike, Pilates it is much more than just an effective way to work out. Pilates is intelligent exercise in which all movement is honored and recognized as having purpose.

Pilates is a philosophy, and when mastered becomes a way of life for those who practice it. It engages the mind as well as the body to create supreme mind-body awareness with the goal of ultimately teaching the body how to move with balance, grace, and proper form on its own, without the intervention of conscious thought.

Pilates exercises are used for many different reasons: To some Pilates is a from of rehabilitative therapy, to others it is a physical and mental discipline, while others see it as a way to take their physical fitness to the next level by directly working on strengthening the core muscles. In all its uses Pilates is extremely effective.

What makes Pilates “intelligent exercise”?

The term “intelligent exercise” is often used to describe Pilates, and for good reason. This has to do with the fact that Pilates requires participants to be fully mentally vested in the exercises they are performing, and also because Pilates has a logically linear and well thought-out approach that addresses all aspects of the physical form.

Rather than an outward focus on muscular strength in the extremities, as is often the goal of strength training, Pilates has presented the idea that a solid foundation must first be established. This means first working to achieve skeletal strength and mobility with a specific focus on the spine and surrounding core muscles. Pilates also gives great attention to the strength, flexibility, and elongation of fascia and other connective tissues of the joints, so an in-depth exploration of anatomy is a key focal point among Pilates instructor courses. All of this is done with the logical understanding that a strong skeletal system and spine, surrounded by strong core muscles all held in place by strong and limber connective tissue, is the ideal foundation upon which to build muscle.

Pilates instructor, Graza Doyle, explains, “To me it was logical; not only intellectually, but also I could feel it in my body because its about stretching, its about lengthening. Muscles and fascia become long, and supple, and strong. If you think about human anatomy, what moves the skeleton is the joints. Some joints have a very sophisticated system of tendons and ligaments. It’s about learning how to properly align your spine with each movement and giving time for ligaments and tendons to develop their strength, so you are moving in proper form. Next you address the muscles. Pilates is about strengthening the core, which is actually hundreds of thousands of tiny muscles that are like rubber bands that support you all around like a belt to hold your spine up.”

Graza went on to say, “Where does the human body begin? I see it as the skeleton. And can we ever divorce ourselves from our own mind? Intelligent exercise is allowing your mind to take you and lead you through the sequence of a logically set-up method that has been proven to work very well on people of any age, in any situation for over 90 years. Now that is intelligent exercise.”

What is the origin of the Pilates method?

Joseph Pilates, the creator and founder of the Pilates method, started life as a sickly child growing up in Germany in the latter part of the 19th century. He battled many childhood diseases from which he drew the resolve to achieve unprecedented levels of strength and fitness. Through this resolve he worked to transform his rather weak physique so dramatically that by the age of 14 his body was being used as a model in the creation of anatomical charts.

Pilates was always a man of great inspiration and a true pioneer of new ways of thinking about physical fitness. Pilates studied yoga, and martial arts, and very early on began to combine these Eastern disciplines with Western physical activities like gymnastics, boxing, and bodybuilding to develop a whole new approach to fitness.

He moved to England and was interned along with other Germans when WWI erupted. It was during his internment that he began working with his compatriots to develop the method that he would go on to call “contrology”.

Following his internment he went to work as a nurse orderly attending to the war wounded on the Isle of Man. Working with veterans who had suffered catastrophic injuries that prevented them from performing his floor exercises, Pilates began to design and build resistance apparatuses from bed springs and wheel chair parts. Regardless of the extent of the battlefield injury suffered by the patients that were in his care, Pilates was able to assist them with regaining their strength by building an apparatus to accommodate their needs and then coaching them through its use.

After the war Pilates immigrated to the U.S. where his revolutionary method was discovered by famous entertainers and dancers in the New York stage scene. Slowly it grew into a fitness movement as prizefighters, entertainers, and athletes of all kinds embraced his methods. Today the name Pilates is synonymous with extraordinary levels of strength, balance, control, and grace as it is the most recognized and effective method employed by celebrities and professional athletes.

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