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Within the last decade, pilates has become an extremely popular and trendy form of exercise. On late-night TV, you’ll often see celebrities such as Daisy Fuentes testifying that pilates gave them spectacular bodies by helping them tone up and trim down.
For those who might not be aware, pilates was actually developed by Joseph Hubertus Pilates, and was introduced to the United States when he emigrated from Germany in 1926 and opened a pilates studio in New York.
Pilates was born in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880. He had many physical ailments as a child, but it was his physical weakness that motivated him to learn more about exercises and techniques that would help strengthen his body. He eventually moved to England in 1914, but was put in an internment camp at the beginning of World War I.
It was in the internment camp that Pilates used his knowledge of human anatomy to develop the pilates technique. He taught pilates to others in the internment camp, using beds to make contraptions that helped with the exercises.
Pilates’ studio in New York contained many machines that he had invented to help with the exercises. Soon, dancers incorporated pilates into choreography and used it to help strengthen their bodies.
Today, pilates is not practiced by just dancers, but by many people as a routine form of exercise.
What sets pilates apart from yoga and other exercises is its focus on control, flexibility, strength building and conditioning. Pilates can be easily done on a mat with the option of incorporating weights into the exercises. The main focus of pilates exercises is to strengthen, build up and lengthen the ‘core’ or the ‘powerhouse’ of the body, which consists of the abdominal muscles, the buttock muscles and the muscles centered around the spine with special concentration on the pelvis.
Pilates has recently made its way to campus where students have the option to take classes at the ARC.
Consulting biologist Joanna Solis has been teaching aerobics and kickboxing on the side since she was in college. She has been practicing pilates for two years and has been a certified pilates instructor for about six months. She currently teaches a pilates class once a week at the ARC.
Solis admits that she decided to try pilates after seeing the commercials on television, but wasn’t able to reap the benefits of pilates until she attended a class.
‘It’s one thing to do an aerobics tape, but with pilates, it’s very form intensive,’ Solis said. ‘If you don’t have proper form you can really hurt yourself or just not get results.’
Solis recommends pilates because it helps build strength while lengthening the muscles, which isn’t always the case with weight lifting.
‘For women who want to get the toned look, it’s [especially] important to do pilates because you’re doing the combination of strengthening while stretching, so you build long, lean muscles as opposed to big, bulky muscles,’ Solis said.
Tina Toosky, a second-year biological sciences major, currently attends two pilates classes at the ARC and started doing pilates with the home videos. She admits that she started pilates because it appeared easy.
‘It looked like a good, easy way of working out,’ Toosky said. ‘You don’t have to do kickboxing where you’re dying … but it’s somewhat serene, but not like yoga where you’re not doing anything.’
Toosky enjoys pilates and was happy with the results.
‘Two weeks after I started, I could see a change in my body. You have to be consistent and you’ll see the results,’ Toosky said.
Pilates, like any other form of exercise, should be done at least three times a week. What makes pilates special is that even the smallest modifications or fewest repetitions of exercises helps to strengthen the body.
Rebecca Chappell, a first-year undeclared social science major, took her first pilates class this quarter at the ARC and was impressed with the results.
‘You can do three moves and still feel the workout,’ Chappelle said. ‘If you do it right, you should be dying with three repetitions.’
Solis recommends pilates to everyone regardless of their physical abilities.
‘If you’re a world-class athlete, you can get a lot benefit out of pilates, and if you’re injured, you can get a lot of benefit out of pilates,’ Solis said. ‘People say, ‘I have back problems, I can’t do pilates,’ but that’s all the more reason you should be doing it because you need to strengthen those muscles.’
Those with injuries must always take precautions when doing physical activity.
‘It’s just important that if you have injuries, you tell your instructor ahead of time, which is another reason that you want to have an instructor as opposed to doing videos,’ Solis said.
Although pilates can be done without balls or weights, Solis prefers to use equipment when she practices pilates.
‘I like my pilates to be more intense and I feel that equipment tends to intensify my workout,’ Solis said.
Pilates is extremely similar to yoga in that it requires concentration. However, pilates’ main focus is to build strength in the muscles.
‘It has a lot to do with focusing on the movements,’ Toosky said. ‘If I’m thinking about it while I’m doing it, I sweat a lot more.’
Chappell, who plans on taking two pilates classes a week next quarter, believes that the focus required in pilates can help benefit a person overall.
‘It relaxes you and gets your mind off things,’ Chappell said. ‘If you can focus on pilates and clear your mind, then maybe you can do that in other parts of your life, too.’
There are several pilates studios in the Irvine area. It is usually offered at dance and yoga studios. The ARC also offers pilates classes throughout the week for an affordable $30 per quarter. You can begin enrolling for classes for winter quarter now!

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