Updated: Apr 29
How is it possible that an exercise method that educates and approaches health as a whole-body experience has been around for so long, yet is often under the radar and not widely understood?
You may have heard the name “Pilates," but most people don’t understand what Pilates is or its benefits. Most are surprised to find out the history of the method!
"Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness." - Joseph Pilates
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a physical fitness system that was developed during the early 20th century. The Pilates Method has been around for over 100 years!
Once you let that sink in, note that Pilates was developed by none other than Joseph Pilates. He was a German man who originally named the method “Contrology,” which meant “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.” The entire method is based on body mechanics, to attain a properly aligned and balanced body to develop health as a state of normalcy for us as human beings.
What are the Benefits of Pilates?
Most notably, Pilates is known for its benefits of:
Building the core
Teaching proper alignment
It has become popular most recently amongst many professional athletes, physical therapy institutions, and many big-name celebrities!
What was Pilates Designed to do?
While the benefits and popularity are nice, Pilates was originally designed to strengthen the body from the inside out, starting with the mind, then educating the body alongside to be efficient with its movement. The system requires an Instructor’s mindful and intelligent eye to properly coach and instruct the exercises and movement, so that engagement and balance of the body is optimized!
In many ways, Pilates is considered to be a corrective exercise system. It is a perfect cross-training system for all athletics. Joseph Pilates worked with the military in Germany, and then with Professional Dancers in the early stages of his development as the Reformer and Chair. He was a boxer and a gymnast, and his dream was to bring his passion for movement to the public.
The Pilates system, when taught properly by Instructors who have gone through traditional Pilates Teacher Training, yields benefits for the WHOLE PERSON: body, mind, and soul.
The Pilates Method has principles and “movement” principles that are set up and practiced in each session.
“A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion." - J. Pilates
Who is Pilates for?
Pilates is for every "BODY." Joseph Pilates father was a gymnast, and his mother was a naturopath, so Joe was inspired by their approach to health and well-being. In the early 20th century, Joseph Pilates was a physical trainer in the UK. Soon after, as a German in the UK, he was unfortunately placed in an Internment Camp on the Isle of Man during WW1.
During his time there, he developed and tested his method of physical fitness on fellow “internees." He began to rig hospital bed springs to the hospital beds to begin using tension to support men who were unable to perform his movements without the support of the spring tension.
Eventually, after being released, Joe went on to train the Police force in Germany. Due to the events leading up to WWII in Germany, he decided to flee to America. He arrived in New York City in the early 1930s, where he opened a studio to continue developing and sharing his method. He built the infamous Pilates Reformer, the Chair, as well many other apparatus pieces we use in the studio today.
In New York, he partnered with his wife, Clara, who was a nurse and soon gained the attention of professional ballet & modern dancers as well as circus performers. His expertise started with athletes, but led him to learn more and see the potential of his movement method being powerful for the everyday person with its consideration of health and proper posture.
He soon wrote 2 books titled Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education and Return to Life Through Contrology.
To say he was passionate about his belief that movement was healing, would be an understatement.
“The mind when housed in a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power. Change happens through movement, and movement heals.” -J. Pilates
What You'll Experience in Pilates Classes
Within any given Pilates Session or class, you will be focusing on activating your core, alongside strengthening and stretching other muscles. Pilates Sessions can be done via Pilates Mat, the Pilates Reformer, Chair, Trapeze/Cadillac/Tower, Spine Corrector, The Barrel, or Pedi Pole.
It’s often that Instructors may add in variations with an exercise ball, the Pilates Magic Circle, or even some lightly weighted dumbbells.
Pilates Sessions were originally designed to be a one on one experience, but you will find Pilates Small Group Classes, Semi-Privates, and Private Training is available.
“In 10 sessions, you feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, and in 30 sessions, you’ll have a whole new body.” - J. Pilates