Despite being born late in the 19th Century, Joseph Pilates revolutionised the lives of those around him, long before conventional medicine and sports science understood the benefits of core strength and mindful training.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a method of exercise that is designed to exercise the whole body in a controlled and mindful way. This method of exercise was originally called Contrology and was the result of the inspired genius of Joseph Pilates.
History of Joseph Pilates
Joseph Pilates was living proof of the power of positive thinking and determination. Born to a gymnast father and a naturopath mother, he was a sickly child who suffered from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever which affected his bones and joints.
Not satisfied with his health, Joseph began studying anatomy, philosophy and self improvement as a young teenager. He dedicated himself to learning and practicing the science of exercise and by 14 he had not only thrown off the ill-health of his childhood, but was posing as the anatomical ideal for medical charts and drawings.
World War I – the miracle in prison
Joseph moved to England in the early 1900s to continue to refine his knowledge and improve his physical fitness. He made his living as a professional and self-defense trainer at police schools and Scotland Yard.
But the onset of World War I meant that German-born Joseph was forced into an internment camp. It was here, however, in prison, that he found his true calling.
Every day, Joseph insisted that all detainees in his cell block join him in daily exercises. Having experienced the power of correct exercise himself, Joseph was unfazed by the illness and injury that plagued some of his cellmates. Joseph invented equipment and used springs and pullies made from hospital beds to allow even the most bed-ridden of prisoners to exercise. It is said that these inmates all survived the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 due to their good health.
A journey abroad
After the war, Joseph was released and in 1925 he immigrated to the USA. During this voyage Joseph met his wife, Clara. Together they founded a studio and he continued to develop and refine his method of exercise. The studio was near a number of dance schools, and professional dancers were soon flocking to his studio because of the powerful benefits of the Pilates’ method of flexibility, strength and stamina, rehabilitating injury and crosstraining.
In fact, until modern sports science caught up with what Joseph Pilates had known nearly 100 years before, only dancers and elite athletes knew about the secret of the Pilates method!
Sadly, Joseph died in 1967 before he could see the explosion of popularity in the Pilates method and the benefit his training has brought to people worldwide.