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The History of Pilates

The Pilates exercise method was originally developed by Joseph H. Pilates in the 1920s. Born in 1880 in Germany , Joe suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever as a child. His interest in physical fitness stemmed Photo: Joseph H. Pilates Headshot from a determination to seek a remedy for these ailments, strengthen his body and improve his health. By age 14, he had overcome his physical limitations with exercise and body building, and became accomplished in many sports including skiing, diving and gymnastics.

From 1912 until the beginning of World War I, Joe lived and worked in England as a boxer, circus performer, and self defense instructor at Scotland Yard. When the war broke out, Joe was incarcerated as an 'enemy alien' with other Germans at a camp in Lancaster . During his internment, Joe trained fellow captives with his physical fitness exercises. Working as an orderly while interned, Joe also designed exercise apparatus for immobilized patients. This system formed the foundation for his later Pilates equipment design. Despite harsh living conditions and an influenza epidemic that killed thousands that year, none of Joe's trainees died. This testifies to the effectiveness of his exercise program.

Returning to Germany after the war, Joe continued his fitness training programs. The German government requested that he apply his training for the German Army but because he was not happy with the political direction of Germany he decided to leave. In 1926 Joe immigrated to the United States and met his future wife, Clara, en-route. Upon arriving in New York Photo: Joseph H. Pilates working with client on Cadillac, they established a studio in a building that they shared with the New York City Ballet. His fitness program attracted the attention of major dancers who found his emphasis on graceful movement and posture an excellent complement to their own profession.

Legends Martha Graham and George Balanchine were among his clientele.

Joe died in 1967 at the age of 87, a fitting tribute to the value of his training methods and fitness exercises. Clara taught and ran the studio until 1970. She passed away in 1977. Today Joe's work has continued to grow and evolve throughout the world.


The Principles of Pilates

Joseph Pilates' definition of physical fitness was: "The attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of.performiPhoto: Joseph H. Pilates' original studio at 939 8th Avenue, in New our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure." It is still the goal of the Pilates exercise method today.

While other forms of exercise focus on building muscle bulk or cardiovascular stamina, Pilates focuses on a workout connecting the mind and the body. The exercise method improves coordination, trunk stability, and flexibility by developing an awareness of the deep core muscles, placing focus on the breath and concentration. The exercises are based on the principle that by developing a strong and flexible torso with a stabilized core, the whole body can be balanced, aligned and conditioned for optimal performance. Pilates has been proven to reduce joint stress, improve functional abilities, enhance performance, rehabilitate and prevent injuries.

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