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PostHeaderIcon JOSEPH PILATES, a Hardcore Man with a Hard Core

What is pilates? Pilates is modern form of exercise that has been used by athletes, dancers and every day people in order to maintain strength and flexibility. It has also been used as physical rehabilitation for numerous injuries.

Pilates is named after its founder, Joseph Pilates who was born in Germany and lived from December 9, 1883 to October 9, 1967

It is said that Pilates was a sickly child who suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. He devoted his life to physical fitness and grew up to be a champion gymnast and martial artist. He also studied yoga and many other modalities of fitness. He was a professional boxer who taught self defense and wrestling to law enforcement. He called his system of fitness “contrology” and published a book called “Return to Life Through Contrology” in 1945. This book showcased simple exercises to develop core strength and posture so the mainstream population could fight the debilitating effects of modern sedentary living. I teach many of these exercises in my mat pilates class.

During WWI, Pilates was interned by the British where he continued training his fellow soldiers. Rumor has it that he even made the soldiers work out when they were injured and couldn’t walk by turning their beds into exercise machines by using the coils of the beds for resistance, inventing a modern pilates reformer. Some people say that Pilates would not allow anyone to skimp out on exercising. Others say that Pilates was rehabilitating the soldiers on these beds and that he successfully healed many soldiers this way. It is said that his inmates survived the 1918 flu pandemic due to their great shape and he boasted that they would be stronger than they were before internment.

After the war, Pilates returned to Germany and collaborated with many other fitness and dance experts. He also trained law enforcement but was ordered by the government to train the German army. Disappointed by the political and social conditions, he immigrated to the United States where he met his wife, Clara.

He opened his studio in New York which gained quick attention from the performing arts community. His studio attracted many dancers who suffered from aches and pains and provided a foundation of spinal strengthening, mobility and stamina. Performers were often sent to his studio to rehabilitate their injuries and soon, contrology was part of a regular dance regimen that helped prevent injuries.

Today, Pilates’s students have branched out to teach his method all over the world. It has been adopted by athletic trainers and occupational physical therapists. His method is taught in studios and gyms all over the world and has helped people from all walks of life overcome the aches and pains of athletics, performing arts and sedentary modern living.

“Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit. In childhood, with rare exceptions, we all enjoy the benefits of natural and normal physical development. However, as we mature, we find ourselves living in bodies not always complimentary to our ego. Our bodies are slumped, our shoulders are stooped, our eyes are hollow, our muscles are flabby and our vitality extremely lowered, if not vanished. This is but the natural result of not having uniformly developed all the muscles of our spine, trunk, arms, and legs in the course of pursuing our daily labors and office activities.”  –Joseph Pilates