The name Pilates comes from the founder of the method Joseph Pilates. Born in Germany in 1880, he was sickly as a small child with ailments such as asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. He worked hard to overcome his symptoms through physical activity and was influenced by martial arts, gymnastics, yoga, Eastern and Western philosophies.
When Joseph Pilates was 31 he moved to England where he became a boxer, circus performer and self-defence trainer. When World War One broke out he was interned because of his German citizenship. During this time he designed exercise apparatus for immobilized patients by attaching springs to hospital beds. This system formed the basis for his style of body conditioning and specialized exercise apparatus. In 1926 he moved to America and opened the first Pilates studio in New York City with his wife Clara teaching alongside him. Joseph’s popularity quickly grew within the dance community for improving technique or recovering from injury. He quickly became the best kept secret in New York. In 1932 Joseph published a booklet entitled “Your Health” and in 1945 “Return to Contrology”. Through these writings and his students the Pilates method has been passed down and kept alive. Joseph died in 1967.
Contrology, the term he used to describe his method seeks to “develop the body uniformly, correct wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorate the mind and elevate the spirit”
Pilates was fond of telling everyone that he was fifty years ahead of his time. It seems that many of his ideas were truly inspired and have since been proven by modern medicine and research. The Pilates method has evolved but the basics still stand as a strong base for all his followers to hold onto.
For more information about Pilates and its principles please go to the Pilates Foundation website.