History of PilatesJoseph Pilates was born near Düsseldorf, Germany in 1880. He was a sickly child, plagued with rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever. His drive to overcome these ailments led to the practice of bodybuilding, gymnastics, diving and other physical pursuits. He studied Eastern and Western forms of exercise and philosophies and was greatly influenced by ancient Grecian and Roman regimens.
In 1912 Joseph Pilates traveled to England. When WW1 broke out, he along with other German nationals, were interned in a camp on the Isle of Man. While there, he taught and practiced his physical fitness program. It was in the camp that he began devising apparatus to aid in rehabilitation of the disabled and sick. Pilates is credited with assisting many who had succumbed to the influenza epidemic of that time and helping others recover from wartime diseases. After the war, Joseph Pilates returned to Germany where he was incited by the government to train the new German Army. Recognizing the implications of this, he decided to leave for America. On the way he met Clara who soon became his wife.
In 1926 Joseph Pilates and Clara set up the first Pilates studio in New York. A varied and diverse population frequented the Studio, including the elite of New York society, circus performers, gymnasts and dancers. It was particularly the dance community and luminaries such as George Balanchine, Ted Shawn, Martha Graham and many other lesser known dancers who truly recognized the value of this work. They embraced the work and what it could do for their bodies, either for rehabilitation or for enhancing performance.
Over the course of his career, Pilates developed over 600 exercises for the various pieces of apparatus he invented. His guiding philosophy in creating the apparatus and the movements was that the "'whole" must be exercised to achieve good health. Using springs and pulleys, which create progressive resistance, the equipment helps in producing muscle contractions that simulate functional muscle action. At the same time the stabilizing muscle groups are encouraged to work isometrically to maintain correct positioning and alignment. It is important to mention that Pilates regarded his method, which he called "Controlology" as a way of life and a path to total health rather than merely a series of exercises.
It is without question that Joseph Pilates was ahead of his time. One need only look at the boom in popularity this method is experiencing, now regarded as probably the fastest growing fitness trend in America. Then consider that although he dreamed of seeing his work embraced by the general public, Pilates died a disillusioned man, little known other than by a relatively small number of people.
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