What is Pilates?
Pilates is an exercise system designed by Joseph Pilates to strengthen and tone muscles, increase flexibility, and improve overall health. Exercises are performed on specially designed equipment using springs to resist and assist. The Pilates system includes exercises for every part of the body, and applications for every kind of activity. Created in the early part of the 20th century, Pilates was so far ahead of its time, that it did not begin to gain popularity until the first few years of the 21st century. Over 10 million people are now practicing Pilates in the US and the numbers continue to grow every year. Pilates is used in studios, gyms, rehabilitation centers, and hospitals to improve health and well being.
With its focus on core muscles, Pilates will strengthen and tone every muscle in the body, increase flexibility, create balanced muscle development, improve posture and alignment, enhance balance and coordination, and alleviate back and joint pain. The deep, mindful breathing and smooth lengthening movements of Pilates, will also reduce stress. The workout is safe and low impact making it good for every BODY, from 10-100.
Who is Joseph Pilates?
Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in Germany in 1883. Born with a weak respiratory system, young Joseph was often sick with various maladies including rheumatic fever, asthma, and rickets. His father and brother were very athletic, participating in boxing, fencing, wrestling, and gymnastics. While Joseph took part in these activities, he began exploring other ways to strengthen his body and mind to improve his own health. From an early age, he was intrigued by the classical notion of the "ideal man" who combined a well-trained body with an equally well-trained intellect.
Pilates was in England when World War I broke out, and was held as a resident alien in a German camp on the Isle of Man during the war. While there, he took it upon himself to lead fellow detainees in a daily exercise program. His success caught the attention of camp leaders, and he was given a job as an orderly tasked with exercising invalids in the hospital. It was here that he created spring assisted exercise using hospital beds. When the influenza epidemic broke out (1918-1919), none of the inmates who followed Pilates' exercise regime got sick. This reinforced his belief that he was on the right path.
In 1926, he emigrated to the United States, arriving in NYC with his soon-to-be wife, Clara, whom he met on the trip. They set up a small studio in the same building as NYC Ballet. He began teaching his method, "Contrology", to people from all walks of life, and ended up with a strong following from the dance community as he rehabbed them from injuries. Joesph invented 5 pieces of equipment: the Reformer, Trapeze Table, Barrel, Chair, and Spine Corrector. He also designed several small props including the Magic Circle.
Joesph had a dream of bringing his method of mind-body fitness to everyone from elementary schools to the military. Because he was so far ahead of his time, that dream never came to fruition. He died in 1967, and never fully realized the success in his lifetime that he had hoped for. Because he had taught a small group of devoted teachers and students, they went on to continue the work, and keep it alive until the rest of the world caught up with his revolutionary thinking.