The Illustrated Atlas of the Human Body by Beverly McMillan
Pausing now over a piping hot pot of Makaibari Estate 2nd Flush Darjeeling tea, I’m reminded of these words as I read and study Beverly McMillan’s Illustrated Atlas of the Human Body:

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

— Psalm 139:14, The Holy Bible

(King James Version)

Why do I still study the human anatomy years after passing my state massage therapy board exam? Blame it on my automotive background: I like to know how complex machinery works and how to improve its performance.

The human anatomy is awesome in its intricacy and dynamic in its capabilities. Consider each body includes:

  • 206 bones of the human skeleton
  • 24 moveable vertebrae in the spine (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, coccyx)
  • 22 cranial and facial bones protecting the brain and shaping the face
  • 3-4 pound brain controlling ten of billions of nerve cells

Gaiam AM and PM Pilates Workout DVD

Without delving deeper into the joints, muscles, and other systems that comprise our bodies, we understand there is more to each individual than skin alone. (Note: Skin is the human body’s largest organ.)

Whether or not you’re currently comfortable in the skin you’re in, everyone on this planet decides how to keep and to maintain his or her physical equipment. Since 1997, Pilates (pronounced puh-LAH-teez) has played a key role in my personal maintenance program.

Every body is — literally — different. Please consult your healthcare provider before starting this or any other new exercise regimen.

Pilates Anatomy by Rael Isacowitz and Karen Clippinger

What Is Pilates?

The mind commands the body and it obeys. The mind orders itself and meets resistance. – St. Augustine

The Pilates Method®   is an exercise system for body conditioning.  It focuses on improving body’s flexibility and strength without building muscle bulk.  Pilates consists of a series of controlled movement performed on specifically designed exercise equipment.  In-studio Pilates sessions receive instructor supervision  in both private one-on-one and small group settings.

Although pain and perspiration are minimal, correct execution of the Pilates movements require intense mind and body coordination.  Movements emphasize supporting, stretching and strengthening “the powerhouse”, also known as the abdomen, lower back and buttocks, to enable the rest of the body free movement.  As a result, the individual gains increased awareness of muscle function and control. Better posture, more flexibility, and stronger abdominal muscles are nice perks too.

Gaiam Pilates Core Challenge DVD with Ana Cabán

How Did Pilates Start?

In the 1920s founder Joseph H. Pilates designed rehabilitative exercise equipment for immobilized World War I patients by attaching springs to their hospital beds. Since its early beginnings, individuals at all fitness levels have adopted Pilates as their workout of choice.  Dance companies, athletes, working mothers and former couch potatoes find Pilates  helps to improve both their body and mind.

The first U.S. Pilates Studio started in New York City in 1926.  This early system evolved into more than 500 specific exercises using five (5) major pieces of specialized equipment to develop a better body overall.

Besides our friend the humble mat, a well-equipped Pilates studio will have the following:

  1. Reformer
  2. Trapeze Table (or Cadillac)
  3. Ladder Barrel
  4. Combo Chair
  5. Spine Corrector

If the thought of working on the Pilates equipment above creates mental images of torture chambers, then opt for Pilates sessions or DVDs that emphasize mat work. After all, the goal is to improve mind and body coordination (and not leave mental scars). Here’s a mental image to reward completing the Pilates session…

Photo taken at Tea Fields Cafe (Englewood, NJ)

Cups up, good tea people!

Additional Resources

  • Pilates Anatomy by Rael Isacowitz and Karen Clippinger – Explains how each movement targets various muscle groups
  • Gaiam (@Gaiam) – Mats, DVDs, and exercise props
  • Ana Caban (@AnaCaban) – Pilates instructor
  • Pilates Method Alliance (@PMATWEETER) – Find a certified instructor in your area

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