Pilates is a fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. It is mostly practiced in the United States (where Pilates lived, developed and taught his method) and the United Kingdom (where he lived and taught early stages of his method). As of 2005, there were 11 million people practicing the discipline regularly and 14,000 instructors in the United States.
In his book Return to Life through Contrology, Joseph Pilates presents his method as the art of controlled movements, which should look and feel like a workout when properly manifested. If practiced on a regular basis, Pilates improves flexibility, builds strength and develops control and endurance in the whole human body. It puts emphasis on alignment, breathing, developing a strong powerhouse, and improving coordination and balance. Pilates' system allows for different exercises to be modified in range of difficulty from beginner to advanced, and also in terms of the instructor and practitioner's specific goals or limitations. Intensity can be increased over time as the body conditions and adapts to the exercises.
Safety is always involved in every aspect of the Pilates workout; therefore there are precautions, modifications and protocols developed over decades within the knowledge of Pilates itself, which a fully qualified Pilates instructor should know and follow when working-out people with certain conditions - such as during pregnancy, after birth, or with specific issues with the body. Safe teaching involves additional comprehensive inspection of the Pilates apparatus regularly and the way it is set up prior to a lesson.