Fitness and Wellbeing

History of Pilates

The history and health benefits of Pilates

jp_bookJoseph Pilates was born in 1883 in Monchengladbach, Germany.  He was a sick child, suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, he dedicated his life to improving his physical strength.  His mother was a naturopath and his father a gymnast.  By age 14 he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts.  He believed that the modern life style, bad posture and poor breathing was at the root of poor health.

He came to Britain and worked in London in 1912 and living as a professional boxer, circus-performer and self-defence trainer at Scotland yard.  Nevertheless he was interned by the British Authorities during world War I with other German citizens.  He taught wrestling and self-defence to the other interns boasting that they would be stronger after than they were before the camp.  During his internment he refined his system of mat exercises.  He also studied yoga and the movements of animals.  It is said that he and the inmates he trained survived the 1918 flu pandemic due to their physical fitness.

After the War he returned to Germany and worked with experts in dance and physical fitness.  He also trained police officers in Hamburg, however when he was pressurised to train the German Army, he left Germany and sailed to America.  He met his wife Clara on the boat to America.  Clara and Joseph opened a studio in New York and both taught and supervised students into the 1960’s.  Pilates originally called the method “Contrology,” related to encouraging the mind to control muscles, focusing on core postural muscles that help keep the human body balanced and provide support for the spine.

Joseph Pilates wrote several books including Return to life through Contrology and Your Health.

Pilates died in New York in 1967 at the age of 83.

Since then his work has been further developed and is taught world wide with matwork and equipment such as reformers and chairs.