Pilates is a form of exercise developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. Weak as a child, Joseph studied body-building, yoga, qigong, and gymnastics, combining the different practices into one system based on breathing in relation to physical exertion. While interned in England as a German national, he taught his system to fellow internees, especially those who were hospitalized. Pilates is especially popular among dancers as it develops flexibility and strength without bulky muscles. It can be performed on the floor, with or without props, or on a specially designed table, the most popular of which is called a "reformer."
Is it okay for Christians to practice Pilates?
Pilates borrows from several different sources, including the natural movements of animals. Although Joseph Pilates studied yoga and qigong, Pilates adopts some of the movements and breathing without including teachings about chi or energy fields. The exercises concentrate on the core and how all body movement is ultimately powered by the muscles in the torso. Controlled breathing is used to efficiently transport oxygen to the muscles.
There is nothing inherently spiritual or mystical about Pilates. The poses adopted from yoga are used strictly for physical fitness, not the alignment of so-called energy fields. Many floor classes combine Pilates and yoga; the amount of spirituality addressed will depend on the instructor. It is best to talk to the instructor and determine where her focus is. If it sounds too spiritual, find another instructor.
In general, Pilates is a good option for those who want the advantages of yoga without the spiritualism. It increases flexibility, strength, balance, and agility. Of course, as with all exercises, caution must be used and it isn't a bad idea to consult with a doctor first.
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