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The Anatomy of Pilates

by Paul Massey

listed in bodywork

[Image: The Anatomy of Pilates]

This book is aimed at the current and prospective teachers of Pilates, practitioners at all skills levels, physical therapists and health professionals. It is very informative, pleasant to read, very well presented and very practical. The author’s expertise on the subject, as a physiotherapist and Pilates instructor, is unmistakably demonstrated in the overall content of the book. He also has that infrequently found quality of being able to present his material in a very clear, enjoyable and user friendly manner.

An introduction to the Pilates Method is given in the first chapter. This includes the Principles of the Pilates Method (control of movement, concentration and so forth), the concepts of the powerhouse group of muscles for the upper and lower body, and guidelines to good and safe exercise programme. A good breathing pattern is essential to this form of exercise and this is also described in detail in this section. .

The next chapter focuses on posture and movement assessment. Using illustrations and a list of key features, the author shows how to assess different types of postures i.e. lordotic, flat back, kyphotic and sway back. The muscles which shorten or lengthen in these postures are also listed, as well as suggested exercise to help correct the dysfunctions. Next, the author looks at the assessment of movement and, in a way, that of strength. The main tests include walking, squatting, lunging, push-up and curl-up. Highlighted here are the breathing faults and movement faults which can lead to difficulty or weakness in carrying out these basic actions.

Having dealt with the basic body movements, the author then moves on to the alignment of the body during the Pilates exercises. Maintaining the correct head position, neutral pelvis, neutral spine, leg alignment, scapular control and awareness of the core muscles are some of the essential factors to bear in mind for the efficacy and safety of these exercises and these are all expertly included in this section.

As the author explains in Chapter 3 Pilates integrates the whole body areas in isolation or together through the application of movement principle and stability. Each Pilates exercise has a muscular focus (i.e. motor control, flexibility and muscle balance), or exercise objective. These areas of focus work at different progressive levels to enable the individual’s ability and coordination to be built while undertaking the exercise. Balance is first looked at, with illustrations and descriptions of stabilisers and mobilizers, normal movement balance and muscle imbalance. This is followed by Motor Learning, which is an adaptive response to sensory integration, using the senses of touch, vision, movement and positional sense. Flexibility and Strengthening are addressed next. The final section in this chapter deals with the sequence, components and selection of the exercises in the Pilates Programme.

The second half of the book relates to the actual Pilates exercises. There are 40 exercises in total, covering the whole body. The majority of these are more or less self explanatory like the shoulder bridge, the roll-up and double leg kick. Others however, come with some very interesting names like the swan dive, the boomerang and the mermaid. Each exercise is presented extremely well. Two or three detailed illustrations depict the muscles being worked. Alongside these are the objectives of the exercise, the description, the cues (e.g. imaging a ball under the chin, held lightly, to maintain the correct head position), breathing pattern, pitfalls (e.g. being careful not to loose control in the correct position or allowing your shoulders to roll forward), checkpoints (e.g. maintain your spine in the neutral position) and muscle focus. This layout which is used for rest of the exercises works out very well, it is easy to read using mostly bullet points and clearly laid out as a two page spread for each exercise.

The book has 150 full-colour illustrations, showing the muscles that lengthen and strengthen in 40 classic Pilates exercises. It is a valuable textbook for those studying, teaching or practising Pilates. In addition to the professional practitioner, the book would also be of great interest to the ‘lay person ’ who is enthusiastic to find out about mechanics of the Pilates Exercise. A must have book. .

Mario-Paul Cassar
Lotus Publishing

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