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  History of Pilates

 

Joseph Pilates was born in Germany and sought ways to develop his frail body ever since he was a child. Having asthma, rickets and worrying about contracting tuberculosis, he began bodybuilding. By the time he was a teenager, his body was so well sculpted that he was asked to pose for anatomy charts. He studied various exercise disciplines including the Martial Arts, Yoga, and Tai Chi and eventually became a professional Boxer, Gymnast, and Skier. Realizing that the Eastern fitness methodologies emphasized relaxation, breathing, and suppleness, and the Western methods focused on competitive strength and endurance, Pilates sought a way to combine the best of both regimens in order to create one ideal exercise that would "challenge each persons physical capabilities, correct muscular imbalances, and create mental and physical harmony" .

At the age of 32, he went to England to train as a professional boxer. He taught self-defense and wrestling and worked as a circus performer. As an intern with other German nationals during World War I, he began applying and refining his method which he then named "Contrology".

He was later transferred to the Isle of Man and was asked to help rehabilitate injured soldiers. He experiemented by attaching bedspings to wheelchairs and hospital beds, intriducing a new form of rehabilitation to the bedridden soldiers. This concept led to the development of the Cadillac, the first of 16 pieces of equipment Joseph Pilates invented in his lifetime. In addition, he began teaching his mat exercies to fellow internees to strengthen and align their bodies, improve lung capacity, and correct various imbalances in their bodies. As a result not even one of them who followed his Contrology regimen was affected by the major influenza epidemic that killed thousands in 1918.

After the war, Pilates returned to Germany where he continued training the Hamburg Military Police in self-defense and physical conditioning. In 1926, he chose to move to the U.S. On that journey he met Clara, a nurse, who later became his wife and partner. They opened a studio in NYC on 939 Eighth Avenue and Pilates continued refining his method into what we know today as The Pilates Method.

 
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