by Julia Malik Senior Physiotherapist & Pilates enthusiast @ Agile Therapy
Pilates was born of a man called Joseph Humbertus Pilates, who was born in Germany in 1880. He studied many types of exercise, such as yoga, meditation and wrestling. During World War One he used his knowledge to devise a series of exercises for patients to help speed their recovery. After WW1 he moved to New York and opened ‘The Pilates Studio’. He taught his exercise method (known as ‘contrology’) for several decades. He boasted many famous clients and had a strong relationship with the New York Ballet. In the 1950s and after Mr. Pilates’ death, some of his students went on to open their own studios and added their own touches to his original repertoire. Pilates continues to evolve and bring its benefits to thousands around the world today.
I stumbled into Pilates purely by accident. I was a newly qualified Physiotherapist, with an interest in exercise therapy. I had never even been to a Pilates class before I turned up to the first part of my Pilates training. I chose to train with The Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute (APPI) because it was set up by Physiotherapists. They had looked at research surrounding low back pain, myofascial slings and spinal stabilisation, and based on that evidence they modified traditional Pilates exercises to form a progressive rehabilitation programme. The exercises still bear some resemblance to the original exercises.
However, they are all broken down into levels and have strict indications, precautions and contraindications. It is appropriate to all, regardless of ability, age or health, because it is specific and prescribed by a Physiotherapist. I refer to this type of Pilates as ‘Clinical Pilates’. I did not look back after finishing that first instalment, going on to receive a distinction in my mat work certification exams and to complete further training in Pilates and neurology and ante/post-natal Pilates with APPI.
So, why is Pilates for you?
The NICE guidelines for Low Back Pain and Sciatica in over 16s strongly supports exercise. It recommends that health professionals ‘Take people’s specific needs, preferences and capabilities into account when choosing the type of exercise.’ I regularly find myself recommending Clinical Pilates to people. It provides a good balance of flexibility and strength. It requires you to be mindful of your body position. It looks at symmetry and re-balances how you move. It challenges control and efficiency.
You need next to no equipment (maybe a mat or a bed) to perform. It takes minutes to go through your prescribed repertoire. If you prefer to leave the house to exercise, you can attend a group session. The programme is progressive, allowing you to continue to improve. Perfect for Low Back pain sufferers!
Clinical Pilates doesn’t only help people with low back pain, it can help address any bit of you, which needs some strength and conditioning, or needs help to stay ticking-over. You don’t even need to have an injury or health problem to benefit.
So, why is it for me? Why do I love Pilates so much?
Clinical Pilates helped me return to triathlon after a year-long knee problem when running. The following Spring I got a personal best to see me finish in the top 10 of my age-group at the European Triathlon Championships and go on to compete at the World Triathlon Championships later that year. I needed no more convincing that Clinical Pilates was amazing and I should keep performing/teaching it! I even persuaded the Cardiff Triathletes Club to let me teach them Pilates!