The origins of Pilates

25 Jul 2022

Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. Joseph's frail and weak body as a child created in him what would become a lifelong obsession with fitness and bodybuilding. Practicing a huge variety of sports such as gymnastics, boxing, martial arts, and diving, among others. When World War I broke out, as a German, he was imprisoned in an English detention camp, a period he used as an opportunity to rethink and develop his approach to physical fitness.

Drawing upon all the various disciplines he had been involved with prior to this, he concluded a basic philosophy where true fitness is achieved through the integration of physical and mental conditioning.

Joseph also worked in a hospital with bed-bound patients. By attaching springs to beds in order to support their limbs, he helped patients on the road to recovery. It was here that he first conceived the idea of his well-known ‘Cadillac’ equipment, essential nowadays to all Pilates studios.

In 1926 Joseph and his wife Clara opened a ‘body conditioning’ studio in New York which featured the same apparatus he designed to assist the rehabilitation work. As his reputation first grew throughout the vast community of dance, it then evolved to the general public and became the ‘best-kept secret' in New York.

In 1932, Joseph Pilates published a booklet entitled ‘Your Health’ and in 1945 ‘Return to Contrology’. Throughout his writings and with his students, the Pilates method has been passed down through generations and kept alive. Joseph Pilates passed away in 1967 and it is believed his work was 50 years ahead of its time.

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