Origins of Pilates

What are the origins of pilates? After decades as the workout of the elite, Pilates has entered the fitness mainstream.  So what’s the fascinating story behind Pilates and why is it so successful?

Pilates has been developed by Joseph Pilates, born in Germany in 1880. Joseph Pilates was an extraordinary character.  Growing up in Dusseldorf he appears to have been a frail child, suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. His drive and determination to overcome these ailments rather than accept the limitations of his body led him to create an exercise system that would help him correct his disabilities and become a competent gymnast, skier and diver. 34 original moves formed his renowned matwork exercises, which he called “The Art of Contrology”.

In 1912 Pilates worked in Britain as a circus acrobat, self-defence instructor and boxer. During World War I he was interned in England as a German national and soon went on to develop his exercise system even further by teaching his fellow internees. Later on during the War Joseph Pilates worked with injured patients in a hospital on the Isle of Man where he served as an orderly. He helped them to regain mobility while lying in bed by attaching springs to the hospital beds to help support the patients’ limbs, so they could move and work their muscles safely. This is how equipment pilates was born.

After the War Joseph Pilates returned to Germany where he trained the police in Hamburg. In 1923 he immigrated to the USA, New York, where his wife opened a studio with machines designed by Joseph Pilates to enhance his rehabilitation work. The studio soon become very popular amongst dancers, actors and other celebrities. He had trained several other instructors to teach his method and published his works (e.g. “Return to life through Controllogy” 1945) before he died in 1967, ensuring his method would be passed on.

Pilates exercise system, created early in the last century, has been gaining popularity ever since … because it works! It has been evolving, reflecting new research and integrating current biomechanical thinking and fast paced lifestyle. With systematic practice of specific exercises with focus on breathing patterns, Pilates has been contributing immensly in rehabilitation of all kinds, fitness and everyday performance. With ageing of our population, the static occupations and the increasing trend towards midful, holistic approach to health, Pilates, this revolutionary approach to exercise, is not just another fad, it is here to stay. It allows anyone to achive the very best body they can.

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