Short history of Pilates associated with the name Joseph Pilates

Joseph Pilates, born near Dusseldorf in 1880, was the founder of the Pilates method, which combines Western and Eastern fitness principles. His approach, which he originally called "Controlology", focused on mental and physical fitness. Pilates extensively researched and practiced various exercise regimens, integrating classical Western exercises with Eastern disciplines such as yoga and tai chi.

In explaining the guiding principle of Controlology, Joseph liked to quote Schiller: "It is the mind itself that builds the body".

While interned in World War I Britain, Pilates began developing his method and experimenting with springs attached to hospital beds to facilitate muscle strengthening. This led to the creation of the Pilates reformer, which initially resembled a sliding bed with spring resistance.

Joseph Pilates

In 1923, Joseph Pilates moved to America, where he and his wife Clara opened their first studio in New York. His method gained popularity especially among dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine, who found it beneficial in convalescence and injury prevention. Pilates, originally referred to as "Controlology", became widely known by its moniker.

Pilates criticized the American lifestyle, especially their sedentary habits and love of sports such as baseball, which he believed disrupted the body's balance. He advocated the harmonization of body and mind through exercise and believed that this could lead to the prevention of diseases such as the common cold, cancer and hernia.

The Pilates method returned to Britain in 1970 when Alan Herdman introduced it to the London School of Contemporary Dance, establishing the first Pilates studio in Britain.

After Joseph Pilates died in 1967, several of his protégés opened studios and trained other teachers, attracting primarily dancers looking for flexibility and strength. However, it wasn't until the 1990s, amid the decline of aerobics and weightlifting, that Pilates skyrocketed in popularity and entered the exercise mainstream.

With its emphasis on controlled, low-impact movements, Pilates offers a stark contrast to traditional exercise methods. Celebrities like Uma Thurman and Shalom Harlow helped fuel its rise, leading to a boom in the entire Pilates industry. Although there is no written evidence that Pilates promised a "new body," its teachings evolved and adapted over time to reflect the changing needs and perceptions of practitioners.

Pilates' legacy lives on through his early students, known as the Pilates "Elders". These teachers, who once worked closely with Joseph Pilates, passed on their knowledge to subsequent generations of students while maintaining a direct connection to Pilates and its method. This lineage continues today, with some elders still teaching at an advanced age.

Unique images from the history of Pilates





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