|What is Pilates?
Well, maybe not the whole world, but certainly much of this country, parts of
Canada, Europe, and Pan-Asia are experiencing the explosion in demand
for Pilates, a Method of exercise and physical movement designed to
stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. With systematic practice of
specific exercises coupled with focused breathing patterns, Pilates has
proven itself invaluable not only as a fitness endeavor, but also an important
adjunct to professional sports training and physical rehabilitation of all kinds.
Practiced faithfully, Pilates yields numerous benefits. Increased lung
capacity and circulation through deep, healthy breathing is a primary focus.
Strength and flexibility, particularly of the abdomen and back muscles.
Muscular and mental coordination are key components in an effective
Pilates Program. Posture, balance, and core strength are all heartily
increased. Bone density and joint health improve, and many experience
positive body awareness for the first time. Pilates teaches balance and
control of the body, and that capacity spills over into other areas of one’s life.
|3 Diamonds Path, Unit 8
South Dennis, MA 02660
|Joseph H. Pilates, The founder of
the Pilates Method of Contrology
|History of Pilates
Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born on December 8th, 1880. He was born in
a German town of Monchengladbach, not far from Düsseldorf. As a child
Joseph was plagued by rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. Determined to
overcome these childhood ailments during his you, he took on various
physical regiments including body building, gymnastics, skiing, and diving.
By the time he was 14 years old he was posing as a model for anatomy
charts. His father was a prize-winning gymnast and his mother a naturopath-
which likely influenced the path he took in life pursuing the fields of
movement and well-being. He was greatly inspired by Eastern and Western
forms of exercise, and in particular by the ancient Greek and Roman
philosophies of attaining and maintaining physical and mental perfection.
There are two versions of the story of how Pilates traveled to England in
1912. The first is that he decided to pursue boxing; the other that he and his
brother toured England with a circus, performing as a live Greek statue act.
After WWI broke out in 1914, he was interned along with other German
national in a camp for enemy aliens in Lac\\ncaster, England. There, he
taught wresting and self-defense, motivating others to follow his fitness
program and boasting that his students would emerge stronger than they
were before their internment.
It was here that he began devising his system of original exercises that he
later called "Contrology." Taking springs from beds and rigging up exercise
apparatuses for the bedridden he devised his earliest rehabilitation
Equipment. Joseph Pilates was transferred to a camp on the isle of Man
and there he became somewhat of a nurse, working with internees suffering
from wartime diseases. In 1918, an influenza pandemic swept the world,
killing millions of people-tens of thousand in England alone. Legend has it
that none of Joe's followers succumbed to the illness, even though camps
were the hardest hit.
After the war, Joseph Pilates returned to Germany and worked with the
Hamburg Military Police, training them in self-defense and physical
conditioning. He also began taking on personal clients during this time. This
period of his life is not well documented, though it was a time for him of
medicine, meditation, modern dance, homeopath, and Trigger Point therapy,
and breath work.
In 1925, Pilates was asked by the government to train the new German
Army, and some accounts say that Pilates decided to emigrate to America
because he didn't like the direction Germany was heading in politically.
Other accounts say the departure from his home country was motivated by
an invitation from the American boxing manager Nat Fleischer, and Max
Schelin, a World Title boxer who was also a friend of Joseph. In any case,
en route Joe met a young nurse ma\\named Clara. She became his wife
and shortly thereafter, an integral partner in helping develop and teach his
Once established in the Americas it didn't take long for Joseph's method to
spread. Mostly being taught to NY cities high society members, and
Pilates wrote two books: Your Health, in 1934'and Return To Life, in 1945- a
refined treatise of his philosophy.
In January of 1966, there was a fire at 939 Eighth Avenue. Joe attempted to
salvage what he could and fell through the burnt-out floorboards, hanging by
his hands from a beam until he was rescued by the firefighters. Some
believe this incident may have led to his death in October 1967 at the age of
87. Clara, regarded by many as the more superb or perhaps more
approachable teacher, continued to teach, and ran the studio for several
year until her retirement around 1970. She passed away in 1976.
In the 1980's, second generation teachers began building their practices
across the country, while the Pilates Studio in New York City experienced its
own highs and lows - changes in ownership, location moves, and abrupt
closing. New studios and formalized teacher training programs were soon
Medical acceptance and Wider appeal
In 1983, the first medical-based Pilates program was established. By 1995,
marketing, growing media interests, group mat classes, mind body heath
club programming, and curiosity within the medical community were
propelling the method forward. The word Pilates appeared in the Webster's
Dictionary - another indication of the method's acceptance into mainstream
culture. Joe new his work was 50 years ahead of his time. His intuitive
understanding of the body and innovative equipment design are simply
components of his greater vision of a universal paradigm for healthy living.
|Joseph at 72 years