I was introduced to Pilates a few years ago following an injury to my lower back. I had consulted a chiropractor as well as an osteopath but was never wholly relieved of my back pain. I decided to try Pilates after hearing through the grapevine that it could help my lower back. Although Pilates does not make any medical claims, I assure you that it was the best decision I ever made!
Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in Germany, in the early 20th century. It was then called ‘Contrology’ due to the control the practitioners must have during each movement. Contrology was not meant to be a therapy but rather a form of exercise which could help with the body’s alignment, strengthen core muscles, as well as improve coordination and balance. These exercises were done either on a mat or on a machine which Joseph Pilates himself built out of hospital beds. This device, which was later refined, now holds the name of “Reformer” and it is at the center of the Pilates workout.
Pilates is a sort of medical gymnastics which is also meant to develop and strengthen the body-mind connection. Practitioners learn to re-condition deeper layers of muscles which have become latent due to their lack of exercise. Doing Pilates requires mental focus; one must concentrate on a specific movement as well as on a particular muscle. A Pilates workout, contrary to other exercises, requires both the concentric and the eccentric motion of muscles, therefore, enhances control. This kind of training increases the strength of the muscles around the joints, for example, which in turn decreases injuries and helps repair them as well. In Pilates, there are many different accessories with strange names like spine corrector and the Wunda chair which sound creepy but are designed to enhance the Pilates experience.
I spoke with Catherine Tremblay, the owner of Synergie Pilates on Nun’s Island in Montreal, as to deepen my knowledge of what Pilates could or could not do. Tremblay, who has a background in gymnastics and dance, was also an occupational therapist, so she is indeed an expert in the human anatomy. While enthusiastically sharing the why and how she got involved in Pilates, her eyes got all fired up, and I have to say that I understand why. Tremblay was introduced to Pilates when she was living in Texas in 2004 and fell in love with the practice. She explained that there were many approaches to Pilates but that she had chosen the Stott Pilates approach, which was founded in the 80’s in Toronto, Canada.
Tremblay chose the Stott Pilates method because of its respect by health professionals throughout the world. The Stott approach is a contemporary version of Joseph Pilate’s concept and is the result of the extensive scientific knowledge we now possess about the functions of the human body. Stott Pilates consists of 500 systematic mat and equipment-based exercises which degrees of difficulty ranges from beginner to advanced, as well as being addressed to special populations such as pre-post natal, dance, post-rehabilitation, etc. Each Stott Pilates instructor has to be certified in the basics of its practice and, to keep their certification are required to attend workshops every year.
Stott Pilates studios offer a range of different classes from Reformer Essentials to Intermediate and Advanced, to Cardio-Jump (which is done in faster sequences as to raise the heartbeat) and also cater to individual needs by offering private or semi-private sessions. If you are interested in trying Stott Pilates, I will urge you to read the biographies of the team of certified instructors which usually appears on the studio’s website as to see which instructor might best suit your needs. Of course, I enjoy the team at Synergie Pilates that’s why I joined, and I just love it! After a few months, my back is much better. I have not taken any pain medication or visited the E.R. for my back since which is quite an achievement! Although Pilates was never meant to be a therapy it is what worked for me, and I hope you give it a try – whether it is to tone your muscles or heal an injury – it is a fun way to exercise.
There are many Stott Pilates studios in most cities so you will surely have your pick. Synergie Pilates is located at 7, Place du Commerce studio 202 in Nun’s Island, Montreal. Tel: 514.761.4001
**Stott Pilates is a trademark of Merrithew**