What is Pilates?

Joseph Pilates (founder)

Pilates was founded in the early 1920s by a man called Joseph Pilates. Joseph was born in 1881 in Germany. As a child, he suffered greatly with asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. His father was a renowned gymnast and his mother a naturopath. Their family doctor gave Joe a book of anatomical charts, which he studied in depth. Joe also spent hours studying animals moving. From this, he taught himself to move harmoniously and with intent, visualising exactly how the muscles should work. By the age of 14, he had trained his body so well that he was used for anatomical studies.

Joe went on to do and study all forms of training available at that stage and achieved great success in boxing, gymnastics, skiing and diving, to name but a few. He even worked in the circus.

During WWI he was interned at the Isle of Man and it is there that he started to put to test what he had been working on in theory. His 'pupils' were initially soldiers whom he taught self-defence and wrestling, but as the need for nurses arose with the victims of war, Joe worked more as a nurse rehabilitating the injured.

He took springs from the beds and attached it to the patients' beds, so that the injured could get strong. His breathing technique also helped them all to avoid the great flu epidemic that broke out.

Various circumstances led to him fleeing to America, where he and his wife Clara, a qualified nurse, started their first studio, called Contrology, in 1926. The studio is still in operation today. 

Joseph died at the fit and healthy age of 86 and there are photos of him at that age sporting a speedo and doing the 'Teaser' (Pilates exercise) in the snow.

All his experiences contributed to the unique and excellent form of training which we today call Pilates.

Joseph Pilates defined physical fitness as:

"The attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure."

The Pilates principles you will be taught are:










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15 May 2014

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  • 22 March 2012

    "For me, Pilates is not just therapeutic, but is good for my body in a few ways. I have been going to the chiropractor every five weeks or so for the last 19 years. I started doing Pilates to work on my core muscles, posture and general flexibility, to help the minor scoliosis and my weak back. My instructor does not only give me a general Pilates workout, but focuses on my personal weaknesses. I can feel the difference in my body and religiously keep up the classes since 2006."

    Nathan Bailey
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