History of Pilates – Joe’s Story

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s. He believed that by focusing on controlled movement through mind-body awareness, a better connection would be established with your body and the more benefits you’d gain from your workouts.

History of Pilates

Pilates (pronounced “pih-LAH-tees”) was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s. Originally he referred to it as ‘Contrology’ and it was only after his death in 1967 that the practice become known as ‘Pilates’. Joseph believed that by focusing on controlled movement through mind-body awareness, a better connection would be established with your body and the more benefits you’d gain from your workouts.

He said: ‘Through Contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through the proper repetition of it’s exercise you gradually

Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1883 to Greek parents and was by all accounts a sickly child. He contracted rheumatic fever and rickets and also suffered from chronic asthma.

His early experience of illness gave him a fascination with health & fitness leading him to study Zen Buddhism, yoga and the rigorous exercise regimes of the ancient Greeks and Romans. He was determined to overcome his ailments and by the age of 14 his health had improved so much that he was an accomplished gymnast, boxer and skier.

Joseph moved to England in 1912, working as boxer and circus performer and it was during the First World War, when he was interned in a prisoner of war camp in the UK, that he began to develop his method of exercise further.

He began working with his fellow internees, particularly those bedridden in the hospital ward using. He would attach springs to the hospital beds and used beer keg rings, which allowed the patients to exercise against resistance, where they weren’t strong enough to support themselves. The medical staff noticed that the patients working with him recovered more quickly and when influenza swept Britain in 1918 killing many people, none of Pilates’ patients died. Proof for him that his methods were effective.

The use of the resistance springs became the basis of the reformer and the beer keg the magic ring that he later developed and which are still used today.

Principles of Pilates

The principles of ‘contrology’ were key to Joseph Pilates’ philosophy of ensuring the mind-body connection.

Those principles are:

  • Breath
  • Concentration
  • Control
  • Precision
  • Flow
  • Alignment
  • Co-ordination
  • Stamina
  • Relaxation
  • Stability
  • Posture

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