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Joseph Pilates

Many people ask what is Pilates and when and where did it originate? The first thing to say is that Pilates is not Yoga.

Pilates was developed by Joseph Hubertus Pilates who was born in Monchengladbach, Germany on the 9th of December 1883. His father, Heinrich Friedrich was a metal worker and an enthusiastic gymnast and his mother was a housewife. Pilates was a sickly child reportedly suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. It is confirmed that Pilates did have asthma but the legitimacy of his rickets and rheumatic fever have come into question over time.

Pilates was introduced by his father to gymnastics and body-building, Jiu jitsui and boxing as a child. He came to believe that modern life style, poor posture and inefficient breathing lay at the root of poor health. Pilates devised a series of exercises and training techniques as well as equipment to ensure his methods were taught correctly. His unique exercises were known as Contrology.

 In 1925 he emigrated to the USA and on the ship to America he met his future wife Clara. The couple founded a studio in New York City in 1926 and directly taught and supervised their students well into the 1960 s. Joseph and Clara established a devoted following of local dancers and performing artists like George Balanchine and Martha Graham who regularly sent their students to Pilates for training and rehabilitation. Society women soon became interested in Pilates methods once it became known that ballerinas were attending his studio on 8th Avenue. Joseph Pilates wrote several books including Return to Life Through Contrology in 1945. (J H Pilates and William J Miller). Joseph Pilates died in New York in 1967 aged 83 years old.

Alan Herdman brought Pilates to the United Kingdom in the 1970 s where this unique exercise was changed from Contrology to Pilates.

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