Pilates exercises never leave the mat, build strength for parti

Sunday, January 20, 2002

While yoga stresses proper breathing and posture, Pilates emphasizes flexibility and strength in its exercises.

The series of 34 exercises were developed by Joseph Pilates and never takes a participant off the mat.

While it sounds simple to stretch your legs and arms, the movements build upon each other and are much harder than they might appear. And for each movement, there is a challenge step for the advanced student.

Carlea Lastrapes, who teaches Stott Pilates, a contemporary version of the program, at Universal Health and Fitness Center, said she's had people tell her the class didn't look like it was doing anything.

Someone will walk by the studio and see that the class hadn't left the mats and leave thinking it couldn't be a hard regimen, she said.

But it is.

Pilates can be intimidating for beginners, Lastrapes said, adding that most instructors prefer a one-on-one session for new students in a class so they can understand the breathing techniques and follow instructions more easily.

While yoga has both standing and sitting positions, the moves are integrated into a series during Pilates. "The goal is to keep the spine flexible and build core strength," said Lastrapes.

Joseph Pilates was a sickly child who developed the exercises to build his strength while he was confined to bed. While interned in a war camp during World War I, Pilates taught his exercises to prisoners there. Guards took notice and he began teaching wounded soldiers the movements as part of their rehabilitation.

Pilates emigrated to the United States in 1926 and opened a studio, teaching his exercise movements to dancers and athletes.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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