Pilates is now a well-established, world renowned method of exercise used for both rehabilitation and fitness.

Pilates was established by Joseph Pilates, who was born near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880. He was a sickly child determine to make himself strong and healthy. He took up body-building, to the point where in his teens he was hired as a model for anatomical drawings.  

Pilates was perhaps the first influential person to combine Western and Eastern ideas about health and physical fitness. He researched and practiced every kind of exercise he could, ranging from classical Roman and Greek exercise regimes to gymnastics. He practiced the Eastern disciplines of yoga, tai chi, martial arts and Zen meditation, as well as, studied anatomy and animal movements. He was dedicated to his task, as he sampled every kind of exercise that he could and carefully recorded the results.

He moved to London in 1912 at the age of 32, where he became a professional boxer, an expert skier and diver. Additionally, he taught self-defense to Scotland Yard detectives. Upon the outbreak of World War I, the British interned him as a German enemy alien. He used this time while an internee to start developing a new approach to exercise and body conditioning – the start of what is known today as Pilates.

During this time of internment he was able to work as a nurse, which gave him the chance to experiment by attaching springs to hospital beds. This enabled patients to start toning their muscles even while they were bed-bound, thus the origins of the first Pilates machines now known as the Pilates reformer. He returned to Germany after the war and worked with the pioneers of dance movement techniques such as Rudolph Laban. It was Laban who created the basic system of dance notation still used today.

In 1923 Joseph Pilates moved to New York in 1923. He opened his first studio along with Clara his wife and assistant, whom he me on the Atlantic crossing. His new exercise method became an instant hit with Martha Graham, George Balanchine and many other dancers following became devotees. They found his exercise method the best way to both recover from injuries and prevent their recurrence. Gradually word spread about the value and importance of his method and a wider audience other than dancers began to train with Pilates.

Pilates called his technique ‘Contrology’ – only later did it become known by his own surname. He conceived it as a mental, as well as, a physical conditioning system, in which individuals could work their entire bodies to full potential. To explain Contrology’s guiding principle, Pilates liked to quote Friedrich Schiller: “It is the mind itself which builds the body.”

Joseph Pilates began training his devotees to teach the method and it eventually spread across North America, Europe and now the world. The Pilates method did not return to England until 1970 with Allan Herdman. It was modernized by Stott Pilates in Toronto in the 90s and has continued to develop into a highly relevant body – mind conditioning method.

Pilates has revolutionized the rehabilitation and fitness industries. Join us at Harmony Pilates – celebrate this amazing and quite genius training method.

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