About Joseph Pilates

Bodymindpionier, Mönchengladbach 1880- New York 1967

Modern and unconventional

Joseph Pilates was a creative and unconventional man ahead of his time.  As a child he suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatism. To cure this, he practised gymnastics and became a skilled athlete, skier and diver at an early age. He studied Eastern movement systems such as Yoga and Zen and ancient Greek martial arts. This sparked his interest in the interaction between the human musculature, breath and mind, and he developed a holistic exercise programme he called 'Contrology'.

Fitness of body and mind
His starting point was the idea that the pressures of everyday life, environmental pollution and lack of healthy physical exercise lead to stress and disease. As a result, we are less able to cope with our daily tasks, we can no longer relax and we lose the ability to enjoy ourselves. To cope smoothly and naturally with all the demands life places on us, we need to be physically and mentally fit. Central to Contrology is the creation of balance in body and mind, with the aim of achieving health and happiness. Pilates even designed furniture that promoted better sitting and lying posture.

Joseph Pilates leading a body conditioning class on the Tea Garden platform, ca. 1943

Effortless effort

Pilates exercises are performed in series of flowing movements involving both the mind and the entire body. The emphasis is on the quality of the execution. The idea is that you train in such a way that you automatically perform the exercises correctly. In Pilates training there are few repetitions; just enough to perform the optimal version for that moment.

The 'Powerhouse' is central to the method: strengthening and balancing the deep back muscles, abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles, to create a muscle corset that is stable and still flexible enough to move with strength and elegance.

Pilates Mat and Apparatus

The exercise programme the 'Mat' is the basis of his method.  Gravity is the only aid. Pilates then developed various devices such as the Cadillac, Barrel, Chair and Reformer which support his method. These machines work with resistance from springs.

Pilates Reformer training

Joseph Pilates trained mainly athletes and ballet dancers, which were very tough workouts. He was strict and demanded nothing less than the very best from his students. Want to see how it went? Watch an old recording here. (My training sessions are a lot more relaxed, but still effective ;)

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