History of Pilates
The Story of Joseph Pilates
Joseph H. Pilates developed his work from a strong personal experience in fitness. Unhealthy as a child, Joseph Pilates studied many kinds of self-improvement systems. He drew from Eastern practices and Zen Buddhism, and was inspired by the ancient Greek ideal of man perfected in development of body, mind and spirit. On his way to developing the Pilates Method, Joseph Pilates studied anatomy and developed himself as a body builder, a wrestler, gymnast, boxer, skier and diver.
German born Joseph Pilates was living in England, working as a circus performer and boxer, when he was placed in forced internment in England at the outbreak of WWI. While in the internment camp, he began to develop the floor exercises that evolved into what we now know as the Pilates mat work.
As time went by, Joseph Pilates began to work with rehabilitating detainees who were suffering from diseases and injuries. It was invention born of necessity that inspired him to utilize items that were available to him, like bed springs and beer keg rings, to create resistance exercise equipment for his patients. These were the unlikely beginnings of the equipment we use today, like the reformer and the trapeze.
After WWI, Joseph Pilates briefly returned to Germany where his reputation as a physical trainer/healer preceded him. In Germany, he worked briefly for the Hamburg Military Police in self-defense and physical training. In 1925, he was asked to train the German army. Instead, he packed his bags and took a boat to New York City. On the boat to America, Joseph met Clara, a nurse, who would become his wife. He went on to establish his studio in New York, alongside the New York City Ballet, as he evolved the Pilates method of exercise, invented the Pilates exercise equipment, and of course, trained students.
Joseph Pilates called his work, Contrology. He defined Contrology as “the comprehensive integration of body mind and spirit.” This philosophy is beautifully elucidated in his book, Return to Life Through Contrology.
The Development of Pilates
It was in New York that Pilates truly began to gain in popularity. Working with the New York Ballet Company, Pilates was able to share his exercises and equipment with all of the dancers that came through the company. Many of these dancers went on to share their newfound knowledge with other colleagues and many went on to open studios of their own across the country.
As the Pilates method spread and increased in popularity many different techniques and schools were developed with it. At first Pilates was confined to those that could practice in specialized studios whereas today we can access the Pilates method in a variety of ways. Whether it is in your own home using a DVD, mat classes at your local gym, at your physiotherapist’s office or through hybrid forms such as ‘yogalates,’ many of us now have the ability to access the many benefits of Pilates!
At Byron Bay Pilates Co. we have designed our own brand of Pilates equipment based on many of Joseph H. Pilates original ideas and with the modern customer in mind. We are always looking for new ideas and inspiration from the world around us and we hope this is reflected in our newest range of Pilates equipment.