A Brief History of Pilates

Created by Joseph Pilates, Contrology or the Pilates Method, is a conditioning technique that uses breath, core muscles and controlled movement to improve the body’s general performance in both daily and complex activities (such as athletes performances). 

Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. He started his research about fitness and health from a young age to help him cope with his fragile condition as a child – he suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. After years training as a body builder and a range of other physical activities he developed the strong belief that bad posture and poor breathing were the roots of people’s ill developed health conceptions and all the evils that follows.

During World War I, Pilates was locked in a camp in England with other nationals and that is where he started to further develop his exercise regime and created some of the apparatuses now used in many Pilates studios. Many believe that it was because of Pilates fitness regime that during the Spanish flu no one died on the camp. After the war he briefly went back to Germany but after being asked to train the German Army he opt for leaving and settling in the United States where he met his wife and work partner Anna Clara Zeuner who had an integral role in the development of the method.

Pilates borrowed material from many mind and body philosophies including yoga, gymnastics and martial arts. He also developed extensive research with dancers, including Martha Graham and George Balanchine. Even though he had developed a method that has not only withheld the test of time but also grew better and stronger Pilates sadly died in 1967 quite disillusioned about the lack of recognition he got around his work while he was alive.

However nowadays the Pilates method is one of the most thriving and internationally recognized fitness methodologies. Although he never formally devised a school he did write two books: Your Health and Return to Life Through Contrology. And it was his close students who ended up helping disseminate his school of thought and method to the world. These include people such as Ron Fletcher, Romana Kryzanowska, Eve Gentry, Lolita San Miguel and others that are known as the first generation of Pilates. This students helped not only on the proliferation of the method around the world but also with their own additions to the method, and that is why there are several schools of thought in Pilates. The main ones being:

  • The Pilates Studio;
  • Stott Pilates;
  • Polestar Education;
  • Michael Miller Pilates;
  • Core Connection;
  • Physical Mind;
  • Yogilates

If you would like to learn more about the method and its benefits feel free to drop us a line and stay tuned on our next blog posts!

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