a special feature by Karen Schwalbe-Jones*, owner Harmony Studios

Pilates (pih-LAH-teez) exercise is all the rage, and here is the reason. This popular discipline is a body conditioning method that helps build the infamous “core” muscles, along with promoting flexibility, strength, and endurance in the legs. It’s an exercise system that gives us better posture and personal body awareness as we age. Pilates puts emphasis on spinal and hip alignment, breathing, coordination and balance so we don’t become afraid to move, and in turn, have a fear of falling. This method allows for different exercises to be modified and personalized, ranging in difficulty from beginning to advanced. The intensity of the routine can be increased over time as the body and mind conditions and adapts to the exercises. A certified teacher uses Pilates equipment, or may choose to teach simple, but very useful floor “mat work”. Usually the mat instruction is taught in a class setting, while classic Pilates can be taught one on one, or in classes.

Pilates was created by Joseph H. Pilates over a century ago in Germany. A sickly child who had both asthma and rickets, Joseph developed an amalgamation of many different exercises to develop both the mind and the body. By incorporating some of the physical training routines practiced by the children in Germany, he developed his system of exercises. During World War I, he rehabilitated wounded English soldiers using springs he removed from their hospital beds, and developed techniques to increase range of motion and create resistance. These crude devices led to the invention of Pilates equipment, like the reformer, Cadillac, magic circle, Wunda Chair, and spinal corrector.

Joseph Pilates created a methodology based on six principles: concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing as he believed the mental and physical were interrelated. Nothing about Pilates is haphazard. His six principles exemplify the body and brain’s need and desire to work symbiotically to perform everything from exercises to daily living with the utmost control, focus and care.

Pilates and you

10 reasons why Pilates could be right for you:

improves body awareness and movement; neuromuscular control

-improves balance and coordination

makes for a stronger and better looking core…that is from your tush thru your neck! Not just your belly.

gives you longer, leaner looking body. (after all, ballerinas look really great!)

-improves focus in every day life

-improves memory

-improves posture

-improves gait (thus making our high heels possible once again!)

-increases stamina/endurance

gives better pelvic control

Go ahead — if you haven’t tried this type of exercise in your routine, find a certified Pilates expert who fits your particular needs. There’s nothing more gratifying no matter what age, than to incorporate something new in your lifestyle.

* Karen Schwalbe-Jones is the owner of Harmony Studios, www.harmonystudiosla.com. With UCLA degrees in Science of Kinesiology and Psychology and​ over 19 years of weight training and rehabilitation experience, Karen provides friends and clients with well-rounded physical, mental and emotional health. As a Pilates practitioner, she has enjoyed fine tuning her education with special populations, such as pre and post natal, geriatrics, MS and stroke patients.​ Karen explains, “Pilates is the most complete exercise approach, encouraging people to connect their minds with their bodies. All of what we do as human beings begins with the neurological and appears in the physical. Therefore, how well we condition our brains to create physical responses is how strong we can become.”