History of Pilates

Born near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880, Joseph Pilates suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever as a child. His determination and drive to overcome those ailments led to the study of both Eastern and Western forms of exercise – including yoga, zen, ancient Grecian and Roman regimens. He took them one step further by combining engineering skills with his knowledge of exercise and anatomy.

Joseph Pilates - took his revolutionary method of physical and mental conditioning to the United States in the early twenties. His studio in New York City caught the attention of the dance community - and the PILATES technique became an integral part of dance training. Such legends of dance as Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Martha Graham, George Balanchine, Hanya Holm and Jerome Robbins, have all practiced PILATES and taught it to their students.

Pilates felt that his work was probably about sixty years ahead of its time, and although his name is not yet a household word, people from all walks of life are discovering and choosing the exercises based on his technique as their fitness program. Hospitals and physical therapy centers worldwide are using this method to rehabilitate injured athletes and dancers. Many athletes - even football players - now incorporate PILATES exercises into their training. PILATES-based fitness studios are teaching the technique to an increasing number of ordinary people who are tired of the "pumping iron" atmosphere of conventional gyms and aerobic dancing studios.

Joseph Pilates knew he was 50-60 years ahead of his time. His concepts of rehabilitation and fitness were unheard of when he was using them successfully already in the 20’s.

Pilates believed everybody should practice his exercises daily. He wanted to see fitness in the schools revised to his ideas of “gain without pain.” Pilates was influenced by eastern philosophies emphasizing the Mind/Body/Spirit connection. He preached the importance of “core strength”, and the importance of a healthy spine to maintain a youthful body. Pilates wrote in the 40’s in his book “Return to Life” about the harmful effects our habits have on our bodies and how to correct them.

Today we have scientific evidence of how right he was already at that time and Pilates is offered in hospitals, medical offices, universities, health clubs, and independent studios around the world. Pilates is a wonderful complement to physical therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy and many other therapeutic or physical fitness systems as well as a rehabilitation or a wellness program.

Things the great man said:

“Only through the attainment of perfect balance of mind and body can one appreciate what really constitutes normal health.”

“It is the mind that shapes the body”

"My aim is to offer a real service to humanity from an altruistic and philanthropic point of view"

“In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 sessions you will see the difference and in 30 you will have a new body”

“ Contrology (the PILATES system of exercises) is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit. Through Contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercises you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities. It is the conscious control of all muscular movements of the body. It is the correct utilization and application of the leverage principles afforded by the bones comprising the skeletal framework of the body, a complete knowledge of the mechanism of the body, and a full understanding of the principles of equilibrium and gravity as applied to the movements of the body in motion, at rest and in sleep.”

Joseph Pilates

Joseph Pilates
1880 to 1967