Cherry Herzog
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Cherry Herzog
"I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They'd be happier."

— Joseph Hubertus Pilates,
in 1965, age 86

"I invented all these machines. Began back in Germany – I was there until 1925 – used them to exercise rheumatic patients. Look, you see it resists your movements in just the right way so those inner muscels really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it."

— Joseph Hubertus Pilates


"I learned...every part of the body;
I would move each part as I memorized it. As a child, I would lie in the woods for hours, hiding and watching the animals move, how the mother taught the young."

— Joseph Hubertus Pilates

An Excercise in Balance: The Pilates Phenomenon
Well, maybe not the whole world, but certainly much of this country, parts of Canada, Europe, and Pan-Asia are experiencing the explosion in demand for Pilates, a method of exercise and physical movement designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. With systematic practice of specific exercises coupled with focused breathing patterns, Pilates has proven itself invaluable not only as a fitness endeavor itself, but also as an important adjunct to professional sports training and physical rehabilitation of all kinds. Widely embraced among dancers for years, the exercises – "elephant," "swan," the language – "pull navel to spine, and breeaaaathe," and the look – bright-eyed, refreshed, buoyant-without-necessarily-sweating, is popping up in fitness classes, physical therapy offices, corporate retreats, luxury spas and wellness centers across the country. Another fad? A cult for the over-privileged? Think again. With the aging of our population and the increasing trend toward mindful, moderate health practices, Pilates is more likely to find itself with a wait list at the YMCA, and in your local public schools – shaping the fitness ideals of our next generation.

Practiced faithfully, Pilates yields numerous benefits. Increased lung capacity and circulation through deep, healthy breathing is a primary focus. Strength and flexibility, particularly of the abdomen and back muscles, coordination-both muscular and mental, are key components in an effective Pilates program. Posture, balance, and core strength are all heartily increased. Bone density and joint health improve, and many experience positive body awareness for the first time. Pilates teaches balance and control of the body, and that capacity spills over into other areas of one's life.

The Importance of Joseph Pilates' Unique Exercise Equipment
Around 1914, Joseph Pilates was a performer and a boxer living in England and, at the outbreak of WWI, was placed under forced internment along with other German nationals in Lancaster, England. There he taught fellow camp members the concepts and exercises developed over 20 years of self-study and apprenticeship in yoga, Zen, and ancient Greek and Roman physical regimens. It was at this time that he began devising the system of original exercises known today as "matwork", or exercises done on the floor. He called this regimen "Contrology."
A few years later, he was transferred to another camp, where he became a nurse/caretaker to the many internees struck with wartime disease and physical injury. Here, he began devising equipment to rehabilitate his "patients," taking springs from the beds and rigging them to create spring resistance and "movement" for the bedridden.

In a way, Pilates equipment today is not much different than that of yesteryear. Spring tension, straps to hold feet or hands, supports for back, neck and shoulder are as important now as they were then. Because of the remarkable nature of the equipment to both challenge and support the body as it learns to move more efficiently, the inimitably designed pieces truly act as a complement to the challenging "matwork" exercises.

Joseph Pilates, on Pilates
While Joseph was the outspoken force behind his method, his wife Clara, a trained nurse, quietly incorporated his concepts and exercises in ways that benefited more seriously ill or injured clients. Her approachable style and special techniques spawned a dedicated lineage of teachers whose work flows through and uniquely colors the landscape of the Pilates method today. It is perhaps because of Clara that Pilates is clearly recognized as a positive form of movement-based exercise that truly can be tailored to any level of not just fitness, but also of health.

Natural Movement and the Period of Time Taken to
Study the Human Body
First generation Instructors, who knew Joe, maintain that he and Clara would be very happy and proud of the popularity and growth of Pilates. However, it is less clear how he might feel about the influx of "quickie certifications" available for would-be instructors wanting to be trained in a weekend or two. Joe worked at length with his own instructors, allowing them to assist and then finally teach after sometimes as long as 2 or 3 years of training and apprenticeship. He was quoted as saying, "Remember Rome was not built in a day." and "Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor." While excellent training programs exist in the marketplace today, some are clearly condensed and homogenized, producing less-than-adequately qualified instructors.

The Benefits of Pilates
"It is an education in body awareness. It changes your shape by educating you in daily life. When you're cooking, brushing your teeth – the lessons are coming home to pull your stomach in and pull your shoulders down. There is an attention required (in doing the exercises) that changes your awareness" even after class.

  • Tone and build long, lean muscles without bulk.
  • Reduce stress, relieve tension, and boost energy through deep stretching.
  • Restore postural alignment.
  • Create a stronger, more flexible spine.
  • Increase joint range of motion.
  • Improve circulation.
  • Heighten neuromuscular coordination.
  • Offer relief from back pain and joint stress.
  • Correct over-training of muscle groups that can lead to stress and injury.
  • Enhance mobility, agility and stamina.
  • Compliment sports training and develop functional fitness for daily life activity.
  • Improve the way your body looks and feels