The History of Pilates


Joseph Pilates (Pilates) was born in 1883 near the Norther German city of Dusseldorf. His father was a gymnast; his mother was a naturopath. Pilate’s parents influenced him immensely as Pilates was a sickly child suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. As a child, Pilates focused on breathing techniques to help with his asthma and by exercising outside in his shorts, Pilates was able to cure his rickets, caused by a Vitamin D deficiency.

During WWI, Pilates was interned by British authorities along with other German citizens, in a British Enemy Citizen’s Camp of the Isle of Man. In such poor health conditions, Pilates insisted everyone in his camp participate in daily exercise routines which Pilates had devised to help maintain their physical and mental well-being.

Some were too weak to get out of bed, so Pilates took the springs from the beds and attached them to the headboards and footboards of the bed frames which turned the beds into exercise equipment which provided resistance exercise for the bedridden. These enhanced beds were the precursor of the today’s Pilates equipment, now known as the Cadillac and the Reformer…two staples of today’s current Pilates method.

In 1960, Pilates moved to New York City and opened up a studio. Originally known as “Contrology,” Pilates encouraged the mind to control muscles and focused attention on core postural muscles to help keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine. Specifically, Pilates taught awareness of breath and alignment of the spine. His focus also helped strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles.

The NYC studio was located near many dance studios, and quickly became the place to go for dancers, thespians and elite. They all came to depend on Pilates for the strength and grace the movement developed in addition to its rehabilitative effects.

To learn more or to book a Private Pilates session, head to: pilatesmastery.org

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