, , , , ,

What do Drew Barrymore, Elizabeth Berkeley, Minnie Driver, Daisy Fuentes, Jasmine Guy, Jewel, Melanie Griffith, Meg Ryan, Sharon Stone, Marisa Tomei, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Dita Von Tees, Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Lucci and Oprah Winfrey have in common with each other and 11 million people? They practice pilates, a mind-and-body approach of exercise system that was originally developed in Germany by a man named Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. This form of popular exercise focuses primary on the core group muscles, toning and shaping the abdomen, legs, upper body and buttocks.

The perks of pilates are plentiful, including: longer, leaner muscles; improved postural problems; increased core strength, stability and peripheral mobility; better balance, strength and flexibility; ease on joints; improved performance in sports; heightened body awareness and enhanced coordination and circulation. Additional benefits include: flattened abs, improved posture, reduced back pain and injury prevention. An added bonus, it’s portable and can be customized to suit everyone from rehab patients to elite athletes.

Pilates was developed in Germany by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. In some respects, pilates is like yoga. The similarities include both are practiced on a mat, use mind-body type methods of movement and both emphasize deep breathing with smooth, long movements that enhance the mind-body experience. But while yoga moves from one static posture to the next, pilates flows through a series of movements with a focus on more resistance. There are also more preparatory exercises in pilates than yoga and modifications cater to many different body types and abilities with pilates, making it more applicable to everyday life.

While there are many follow-up forms to the original pilates, the following are the four major types that are practiced most.

Fletcher Pilates – This technique was developed by Ron Fletcher, a true master of movement who, after developing knee problems, sought treatment from Joseph Pilates. It was then that Fletcher became interested in the study of contrology and studied under both Joseph and Clara Pilates for over 20 years. Fletcher developed his own style of pilates, expanding on the breath work that Joseph Pilates encouraged, he developed structured breathing patterns that he calls percussive breathing. He also incorporated his modern dance background in combination with his training the pilates to further develop the body, mind, breath, spirit connection. While staying true to pilates’ origins, Fletcher also introduced innovative floor work, towel work and breathing techniques, creating an even more comprehensive movement experience.

Power Pilates – Power Pilates focuses on building strong muscles without needing to be flexible. It was developed in the early 1980’s by three master pilates teachers, Susan Moran, Bob Liekens and Phoebe Higgins, and chiropractor Dr. Howard Sichel. Suitable for all levels of fitness, this form of pilates is comprised of low impact exercise and usually requires the use of different pieces of equipment found in a pilates studo to properly perform its moves. To achieve maximum results, it is recommended that 12 to 36 hours worth of classes are taken every week.

Stott Pilates – Stott Pilates arose 20 years ago from an intense study of human anatomy and has been refined over the years to include the modern principles of exercise science and rehabilitation. Created by Moira and Lindsay G. Merrithew and a team of physical therapists, sports medicine and fitness professionals, it uses both traditional techniques and modern science to attempt to bring more healing power into exercise, especially with the spine. Performed on a mat or on reformer equipment, Stott Pilate’s primary concentrates on breathing, core conditioning and body awareness. It strengthens and tones your body without creating a bulky appearance or adding too much pressure to your joints. So popular and effective, this form of pilates is used by rehab and prenatal clients, athletes and celebrities.

Winsor Pilates – This is the form of pilates I practice. It is one of the more well-known styles, combining the traditional pilates concepts with body-sculpting movements. It was founded by Mari Winsor, a dancer, teacher, author and the foremost pilates instructor in the world. Developed over 20 years ago through intense training with Romana Kryzanowska (a pilates expert who trained with Joseph Pilates and took over his studio), the unique combination of controlled movements shapes and sculpts long, lean muscles. Countless of highly-visible bodies of musicians, professional athletes and celebrities train with Winsor in her Los Angeles studios to tone and strengthen their bodies. She also has a national following. Winsor has co-written three books on pilates, contributes to countless magazines and has sold more than 29 million DVDs on her pilates workouts.

Pilates exercises are an excellent way to stay fit. If the exercise routine is new to you, you are about to discover an exceptional fitness routine with the power to transform your body for the better. It is neither too expensive to learn, nor too labor intensive yet it is very effective. And it is one of those forms of exercises that anyone can reap its benefits, can practice daily and carry out into your longevity with very satisfying results.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.