Updated: Apr 26
Far more than a recent fitness craze, Pilates has been developed and practised since the 1920s when Joseph and Clara Pilates opened their « Body Conditioning Gym » in New York City. At the time 60% of the clientele were men!
Joseph Pilates, the founder of the method, was a sick child born in Germany in 1883. Determined to overcome his illnesses and build a stronger body, he started very early studying the body, anatomy and animal movement. He also practised and studied every kind of exercises he could, from classical Roman and Greek exercise regimes to bodybuilding, boxing and gymnastics. He set this alongside practising the Eastern disciplines of yoga, tai chi, martial arts and Zen meditation.
Pilates created his exercise system in the 1900s, and over the course of his lifetime he developed around 500 exercises between mat exercises and the six main apparatus, the most known being the Reformer, where springs add variable resistance to the workout.
Originally named « Contrology: the art of control », Joseph Pilates strongly believed his exercise system was a workout for both the mind and the body and rooted his method in 6 principles:
Control – Use safe technique and form to control your muscles
Precision – it is more important to get one exercise perfect than to do a lot of sloppy repetition
Breathing – Learning correct breathing is key to effective exercise
Flow – Perform continuous movement to build stamina
Centering – Bring focus and stability to the centre of the body
Concentration – Encourage mind-body connection
Alignment – Proper posture is key to good health and preventing injury
It is by honouring the Pilates Principles that the depth of the work is achieved!
Joseph Pilates believed that by moving with control, following a specific order of exercises and using your breath correctly could rid yourself of chronic pain and instabilities.
During a Pilates workout, strength, flexibility, stability and balance are addressed. The body is worked as a whole using resistance training and functional training. Regular practice of Pilates improves every functional aspect of your life and can be the perfect addition to professional sports training.
The proof is in the popularity of the Pilates Method, which has grown steadily since Pilates opened his studio and has now become a worldwide phenomenon with millions of people practising and the numbers continue to grow due to its effectiveness and adaptability to everyone.