The history of Pilates is one of personal journey intertwined with the growth of an exercise method. Joseph Pilates, the founder of the Pilates method, faced many challenges throughout his life. As you’ll learn, it was in the apex of difficulty where great strength arose in body, mind and spirit. From Pilates’ life, we observe not solely a way of healthy living, but one of tenacity and resilience.
Why is it called Pilates?
The Pilates Method, or Pilates in short, is named after Joseph Pilates who created the exercise system. During his life, Joseph Pilates called his method Contrology. He derived the name from his cornerstone belief in the power of the mind over the body. Pilates said, “It is the mind itself which builds the body. The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body – and not at its mercy.”
What is the backstory of Pilates?
Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1883. As a child, Pilates’ health wavered due to asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. In his youth, his strong willed determination took precedence, paving the way for him to become an accomplished gymnast, diver and skier.
As a young man, he worked as a circus performer, boxer and self defense instructor in England. At this time, World War I broke out across Europe. As a German national, he was held in a British camp. Determined to maintain health of body and mind, Pilates began to develop a series of exercises while detained. Soon other detainee’s joined in, which caused the British military to take notice. From there, he was sent to a military hospital on the Isle of Man to help rehabilitate wounded soldiers. While working in the hospital, Pilates developed the early stages of what we now know of as the Cadillac. He attached springs and pulleys to the patients beds, allowing them to strengthen their body while still laying down.
In the 1920’s, Joseph immigrated to New York City with his wife, Clara. In 1926, they opened ‘Body Conditioning Gym’. It quickly gained popularity among dancers for creating long, lean muscles and helping recover from injuries, however people from many walks of life trained with Joseph and Clara including many men.
Throughout Joseph’s life, he continued to grow his method, create equipment, teach and write books. His method of teaching has been passed down through students of his who later took his teaching around the world.
What are the original principles of Pilates?
Joseph Pilates created hundreds of exercises and several pieces of Pilates apparatus, yet he utilizes 6 guiding principles throughout his method. Here are the 6 principles of Pilates and what the founder Joseph Pilates had to say about each of them.
“Before any real benefit can be derived from physical exercises, one must first learn how to breathe properly. Our very life depends on it.”
“The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy.”
“Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits. Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities.”
“When all your muscles are properly developed, you will, as a matter of course, perform your work with minimum effort and maximum pleasure.”
I invented all these machines… it resists your movements in just the right way so those inner muscles really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it.”
“A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.”
The Pilates Method has grown in popularity over many decades. As a form of body conditioning and overall well being is remains effective and enjoyable. Schedule a class with ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates in Peachtree City, GA today!