History of Pilates

The Pilates Method of exercise was developed by Joseph Pilates, who was born in Germany in 1883. Sickly as a child, he was determined to gain strength through a unique approach: using his mind to master and control his body.

As an adult, Joseph Pilates immigrated to England where, during World War I, he was interned along with other German nationals as an enemy alien. During his internment, he refined his exercise method, which he called “Contrology.” He also taught his exercises to bedridden fellow internees by rigging springs to their hospital beds, a concept which he would later develop into his famous apparatus, including the Pilates reformer.

After being released from internment in England, Joseph Pilates returned to Germany, where his method became popular among members of the dance community. In 1926, he immigrated to the U.S., where he and his wife Clara opened a fitness studio in New York which primarily catered to dancers. His students at the studio began to teach his method, and when he died in 1967, a number of influential teachers kept his method alive, ensuring that Joseph Pilates’s ruling principles of Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breathing and Flowing Movement continued to underlie every exercise that bore the Pilates name.

By the late 1980’s, the Pilates Method had entered the fitness mainstream, where it became popular not only with dancers but football players and Hollywood actors, as well as members of the general population. Today, over 10 million Americans practice Pilates, and Pilates studios can be found all over the world.

And no wonder. Pilates is not merely a collection of exercises but a method, developed and refined over more than 80 years. The highly adaptable exercises can be modified so they are gentle enough for beginners or challenging for the super-fit. As a low-impact form of exercise that puts minimal stress on the joints, Pilates has proven to be safe and effective for all ages and fitness levels.

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