I attended another great Pilates course on the weekend and this has led me to write this short blog about the history and origin of Pilates.
Pilates is a body conditioning routine that helps build flexibility and long, lean muscles, strength and endurance in the legs, abdominals, arms, hips, and back. It puts emphasis on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing to relieve stress and allow adequate oxygen flow to muscles, developing a strong core or center (tones abdominals while strengthening the back), and improving coordination and balance.
Joseph Pilates aged 59 Age 82 Age 78
Pilates was designed by Joseph Pilates and he originally called his exercise system ‘contrology’ and produced 2 books himself called Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education (1934) and Return to Life through Contrology (1945). Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1883. After spending much of his childhood as a sickly child he spent much of his teens developing exercise techniques to strengthen his body that had been weak for so much of this life.
"I learned every page, every part of the body; I would move each part as I memorized it. As a child, I would lie in the woods for hours, hiding and watching the animals move, how the mother taught the young." Joseph Pilates
He went on to work as a ‘nurse-physiotherapist’ in an internment camp during the war on the Isle of Man, many of his patients improved much quicker than others patients due to his system of bed based exercises and had a higher survival rate for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Later he went on to move to America to set up his own studio for dancers and soon developed a devout following from the dance world and continued to teach for many years.
The story books say Joseph Pilates died in a fire in one of his studios and hanged for two hours from a beam before finally succumbing to the flames. The truth is likely less dramatic and it is actually said he died from emphysema related to smoking cigars all his life 2 years after this fire at the grand age of 87. An extract from his obituary in the New York Times:
“a white-maned lion with steel blue eyes (one was glass from a boxing mishap), and mahagony skin, and as limber in his 80's as a teenager”
Pilates has gone on to dominate the world of exercise and has been further developed following the key principles of Joseph Pilates. His followers decided not to call these exercises ‘Contrology’ like Joseph Pilates had, and instead gave them the name of their mentor.
"I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They'd be happier." - Joseph Pilates, in 1965, age 86
Tags: pilates abdominals posture control