What is Pilates
This is the bread and butter of Pilates invented over 100 years ago in Germany by Joseph H. Pilates. Matwork consists of a number of interconnected exercises which transition smoothly from one exercise to another using the breath to regulate the flow and choreography. The classical matwork as taught by Joseph Pilates himself, was quite a rigorous regime.
Joseph Pilates always worked in what we call an “imprinted position”. This is where the lower back loses its natural lordotic curve by flattening out the lumbar spine. However, nowadays, many schools have adopted a safer and more up to date approach by teaching in “neutral spine." The underpinning reason being the key stabilising muscles of the spine work more effectively when the spine is in its most optimal position so alignment of the “bony bits” is key.
The alignment of imprint is still used when the trunk needs a little more support, especially at the beginning when the core musculature is still weak, or if you are quite lordotic (excessive curvature of the lumbar spine).
Once we have established the alignment of neutral spine, the emphasis is then on learning to recruit the core muscles namely the Transversus Abdominus and Pelvic floor, plus later on, the Lumbar Multifidus and then following the principles of “motor relearning.” This is the breaking down of a movement into smaller pieces and thus being able to recruit muscles in the right sequence.
There are a number of smaller pieces of equipment which are used in matwork such as resistance bands, flex rings, balls, foam rollers, rotational discs and stability balls all of which add variety and a different dimension to the challenges of the exercises in the matwork repertoire.
Pilates Studio Equipment - The Reformer
The Reformer is the key piece of resistance equipment used in Pilates Studios today, and plays a large role in knee and hip rehabilitation as it was originally designed for the injured soldiers who couldn’t leave their beds. The reformer uses a series of springs, pulleys, bars and straps to perform over 500 exercises that can be performed supine, prone, side lying sitting, standing and on all fours. It is an ideal option for those who need modification to the mat exercises as well as offering more challenging work for the advanced Pilates student. Pilates Instructors can work with a wide range of clients, from rehab-focused to the most seasoned athlete.
The Stability Chair
The Chair was originally designed by Pilates as he lived in a rather small New York apartment and the story goes that he needed a piece of equipment that wouldn’t take up much room and could double up as a piece of furniture!
Nowadays the Stability Chair resembles more of a “tool”, which, despite its appearance, is a great piece of equipment and allows a variety of exercises ranging from strength to flexibility. It also helps in transitioning clients who have undergone hip and knee rehabilitation, from the reformer, to more functional work using the chair in standing, balance and co-ordination to re-establish correct gait patterns and correct muscle recruitment for a variety of everyday functional movement patterns.