A Short History of the Pilates Method

The Pilates method of body conditioning is a unique system of strengthening and stretching developed over ninety years ago by German born Joseph Pilates. Pilates unites mind and body, focusing on several principles such as Control, Centring, Breathing, Precision and Stamina.
Joseph was born a very sickly child and through his determination to overcome his health issues he developed an exercise programme to help restore optimal health. In fact, so marked was his physical improvement, that by the age of 14 he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. At the age of 32 Joseph moved to England and using his skills and knowledge taught self-defence to the police. When the First World War broke out he together with other German nationals was interred at a camp in the Isle of Man. It was here, working as a nurse that he really developed his technique to which was originally referred to as ‘Contrology’. Working within the camp hospital he came to believe that the “modern” life-style, bad posture and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. Interestingly, it is said that these internees survived the 1918 flu pandemic due largely to their good physical shape.
At the end of the war Joseph returned to Germany and in 1926 decided to emigrate to the USA. He set up a fitness studio with his wife in the same building as The New York City Ballet where many sought out his conditioning and rehabilitation techniques. Joseph observed that when there was a weak or misaligned area in the body a person tended to overcompensate or overdevelop another area. Therefore it was critical to re-educate the body so that the injuries did not repeat themselves.
Today Pilates has become very popular with the general public of all ages and fitness levels. The slow controlled flowing movements primarily strengthen the ‘core’ muscles that stabilize and support the spine, realign the body and correct postural problems. Pilates brings together mind and body, focusing strongly on principles such as breathing, concentration and precision. The Pilates method is now widely used and recommended by Physiotherapists and Osteopaths.


“The mind when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power.”Joseph Pilates