Joseph Pilates 1880 – 1967
Born in Germany, Joseph Pilates was a frail child who grew up plagued by various illnesses such as rickets, rheumatic fever and asthma. Like many other pioneers in the physical therapies, these drawbacks made him more determined to become fit and healthy. He followed a strong regime consisting of a combination of yoga and bodybuilding techniques and by the time he was 14 he had gained sufficient strength to become an accomplished gymnast, boxer and skier. His muscles had become so toned and clearly defined that he used to pose for anatomy charts.
While in England during World War I, Joseph was interned as an ‘enemy alien’ because of his nationality. While in the camp he refined his ideas about health and bodybuilding, teaching other prisoners his methods based on core principles such as breath control, a strong centre and working muscles in isolation.
Towards the end of the war Pilates was transferred to the Isle of Man, where he applied his knowledge to the war injured. Here Pilates began experimenting with bedsprings, attaching them to the ends of the beds to allow the patients to work with resistance while still bed bound. He had realised that doing exercise with resistance helped patients recover muscle tone more quickly. This later led to his development of the first pilates machine – the cadillac. His work expanded to include various other pieces of apparatus, which in turn inspired additional mat based floor exercises.
After the war, Joseph emigrated to America. On the ship to the U.S. he met a nurse Clara, whom he later married. In America he was instructed to be a physical trainer, but with his and Clara’s combined love and deep interest of physical wellbeing, they opened a studio in New York. They shared the studio with the New York City Ballet and in the 1920’s the Pilates Method was launched, becoming very popular with dancers and the elite of New York.
The Pilates Philosophy focuses on training the mind and body (similar to yoga) to work towards the goal of overall fitness. Although born in a different era, Joseph Pilates understood the physical and mental pressures of a busy schedule. For this reason Pilates Mat Work is designed to fit into the physical and time constraints of the individual without diminishing it’s necessary elements.
Since its introduction Pilates has maintained a steady and devout following. At a time when the fitness industry is tripping over itself to create the newest trends, the Pilates Method with more than nine decades of success, stands out as a tried and true formula of wisdom and unwavering results. Pilates is taught in centres across the world, in Open Class, Personal Training or Retreats, and is undergoing phenomenal growth, gaining popularity daily.