- What is the origin of Pilates? Pilates ( Puh LAH teez) is a series of exercises named after Joseph Pilates of Dusseldorf, Germany; born in 1880. Ill and sickly in his youth, Joseph was determined to improve his health. He studied various forms of exercise including yoga, gymnastics, swimming and boxing. He grew to be very fit and posed as a model for anatomy charts.
- Did Joseph Pilates develop his exercises for dancers? This is an assumption I hear all the time. I love working with dancers and I truly believe Pilates is a benefit to any athlete's cross- training and injury prevention. However, it surprises me how often this fact is misrepresented regarding the history of Pilates. Pilates was born out of need for rehabilitation. In World War I, while in a British internment camp, Joseph Pilates started working with injured soldiers. He manipulated springs from hospital beds (see photo above) in order to make rudimentary exercise equipment so the wounded men could gain strength in their torso, arms and legs. These beds actually led to his later equipment designs!
- How did Pilates get to the Americas? After the war, Joe Pilates returned to his native country and was asked to train the German army. He declined, and in the 1920’s he immigrated to America where he married a nurse named Clara. Together they ran a studio in New York City where Joseph tried earnestly to promote his exercises which he called Contrology. His techniques were very popular with the dance community and he was a valuable asset to Martha Graham, George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet.
- What did Joe Pilates think of the future of his work? Joseph Pilates once said “I am fifty years ahead of my time.” He was right. He passed away in 1967 at the age of 87 and it wasn’t until years later after his death that The Pilates Method really became popular and found its way to studios, gyms, living rooms across America and the rest of the world.
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