Joseph Pilates (Pi-LAH-teez) was born in 1880 near Dusseldorf in Germany. As a child he was very sickly, suffering from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. Joseph educated himself in anatomy as well as various forms of exercise such as Zen, Yoga, Greek and Roman physical regimens, weight training, wrestling, boxing, and acrobatics to help overcome his ailments. Around 1914, he moved to England as a circus performer and a boxer, developing his unique method of exercise called, "Contrology". He incorporated six principles with each exercise: concentration, control, centering, fluidity, precision, and breath.
During WWI in England, he was placed in a prisoner-of-war camp.
The health conditions in the war camps were poor, but Pilates inspired his cell
mates to participate in his daily exercise regimen to maintain their physical
and mental health. The bedridden wounded soldiers also participated. He attached
springs to the iron bed frameworks and manually manipulated their extremities
to promote circulation and muscular strength. After the war, Joseph Pilates
was returned to Germany. He moved to New York City before WWII, opened his own
studio in Manhattan, and became a great success with New York's professional
dance world. Dancers who were injured during their season rehabilitated a great
deal faster with the Pilates method of Contrology and did not become deconditioned
due to their injuries; therefore, they were prepared for their next season.
Dancers also do not like to create bulk and, with Pilates, they strengthen their
core musculature and achieve a lengthened body.
Working with the Pilates method and equipment requires balanced, symmetrical movement of the body. Initiating each movement from the core muscles (pelvic floor, deep abdominals, and back and hip muscles), and incorporating the six principles, the weaker muscles are strengthened, the tighter muscles are lengthened, and a balanced body is achieved. Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 87, leaving behind his legacy.
Today his method can be used by professional & recreational athletes and dancers, as well as senior citizens. Pilates can be used simply to restore posture and ideal alignment to post-therapy rehabilitation. Please see "Focus & Benefits" of this web site for more details.
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©2003, Kim Hlavac. All rights reserved.