History of Pilates

Kate Hindley 0 comment(s)

When did it all start?

The Pilates Method of exercise can trace it’s origins back to over 80 years ago, and was conceived by a German gentleman who went by the name of Joseph (you guessed it) Pilates. It’s reported that Mr Pilates himself was rather frail as a child, and so he turned to forms of physical exercise to try and improve his strength and flexibility, as well as his own physical appearance.


He ultimately became a master of various forms of movement and exercise, and then used his knowledge and experience to develop his own style, to target and condition both the mind and the body.

Physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”– Joseph Pilates


How did it all start?

Joseph Pilates was very likely influenced by his parents. His father was an award-winning gymnast, whilst his mother was a naturopath, believing in the powers of holistic and alternative medicinal approaches, and believing that the mind held incredible power and influence over the health of the body.

Combining the beliefs of his father and mother with what he had learned himself from his studies of Western and Eastern approaches to exercises, ranging from yoga to boxing, Joseph Pilates set about creating his unique approach to exercise.

“I learned…every part of the body; I would move each part as I memorized it. As a child, I would lie in the woods for hours, hiding and watching the animals move, how the mother taught the young.”– Joseph Pilates.

His ideas and methods were truly ground-breaking, and it is only now that we are really starting to appreciate his work as a visionary leader in the world of exercise and health, and the wealth of benefits that his regimes have on the mind and body.

Joseph starting teaching his methods during the First World War, whilst he was interned on the Isle of Man. Post- war, he then returned to Germany where his methods quickly grew in popularity within the dance community, as potential long- term injuries were not only resolved much more quickly than expected, but also prevented. He also started work in training police officers throughout Germany in the art of self- defence, and was soon after asked to lead the training of the German Armed Forces.

Word of the remarkable effects that his methods were having on people from all walks of life quickly spread throughout the world, and the popularity and international recognition of his methods quickly grew.


How has it all developed through the Years?

Rejecting the offer to train the German Military, Joseph, now newly- wed, chose instead to set up his first very fitness studio in New York City. It very quickly began to attract the elite athletes of the time, as well as the rich and the famous, all keen to develop physical and mental fitness, and to combine improved strength with improved flexibility.

“To achieve the highest accomplishments within the scope of our capabilities in all walks of life, we must constantly strive to acquire strong, healthy bodies and develop our minds to the limit of our ability.”-Joseph Pilates.

Joseph Pilates then went on to publish two books relating to his work, the first being “Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionises the Entire Field of Physical Education”, released in 1934, followed by “Return to Life Through Contrology”, in 1945. Through these, and through some of his earliest and most dedicated students, his methods have been carried through the intervening 80 or so years to the present day, constantly evolving, adapting and changing to meet the demands of people from all walks of life, and ever growing in popularity.

Today you can find classes and studios dedicated to teaching Joseph Pilates original exercises regimes, the modern variants of them, or a combination of the to. Such is the flexibility of his work, the Pilates method can be tailored to suit anyone’s needs.

14 years ago, the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute (APPI) was established, with the goal of training and educating the world’s physiotherapists in the teachings of Joseph Pilates. Research is constantly being done to fully explore and understand the effects of Pilates on the mind and body, and as more is revealed, more is known about how effective it is for the prevention of injuries, the maintenance of good health, and the recovery of individuals from all walks of life.

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