Drawings from patents by Joseph Pilates 1930s



Pilates
a mind-body form of exercise that combines movement with breath
to create uniform development in the body

Benefits | Method | Principles | History



Benefits

Provides an individualized, personal workout
Works the deepest muscles of the body
Improves posture, alignment and coordination
Improves balance, flexibility and range of motion
Improves muscle tone and length
Strengthens core and back
Relieves stress and tension



Method

The Pilates Method teaches a series of highly controlled movements fully engaging body and mind. These movements, combined with breath, are designed to uniformly develop the body and foster heightened body awareness.

Embrace the multi-faceted conditioning regimen that has far-reaching effects not only on the body, but on the mind and spirit as well. Enjoy a higher degree of both muscular coordination and mental concentration. Posture, balance, and core strength are all heartily increased. Pilates teaches balance and control of the body, a capacity that touches other areas of one’s life.




Principles

Concentration : The key element in connecting mind and body.

Control : Pilates exercises are performed with control to avoid injury and produce positive results.

Center : Pilates referred to our center as the powerhouse. All energy for the Pilates exercises initiates from the powerhouse and flows outward to the extremities.

Fluidity : Pilates exercises are performed with grace and fluidity.

Precision : every movement in the Pilates method has a purpose. Precision is important to the success of the whole.

Breath: Joe Pilates once said that breathing is the first act of life and the last so it is imperative to learn to breathe correctly. By employing full inhalations and full exhalations, you are expelling stale air from the lungs and replenish your body with fresh air to energize and revitalize your system.

Integration : the ability to see the body as a comprehensive whole; using every muscle simultaneously to achieve uniformity.




“A breath of fresh air!
Sandy’s classes bring a fresh approach to the classic Pilates repertoire
with clear cues, inventive sequencing, energy and fun. 
I walk out of class feeling strong and refreshed.”
 
~ Terry




History

Joe Pilates was born in a small town near Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1880. He was a small sickly child who suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. His name had been spelled “Pilatu” and was of Greek derivation, but was changed to Pilates. He was so skinny that he couldn’t fight back and it was these conditions that caused him to begin the journey to fitness and health. His father was a prize winning gymnast and his mother a naturopath. A family physician gave him a discarded anatomy book and as he put it, “I learned every page, every part of the body. I would move each part as I memorized it.” He studied the Eastern and Western forms of exercise, including yoga, Zen, and ancient Greek and Roman regimens. By the time he was 14, he had developed his body to the point that he was modeling for anatomy charts.

Growing up in Germany, he achieved some success as a boxer and gymnast, in addition to being skilled as a skier and diver. In 1914, after WW1 broke out, he was interned along with other German Nationals in a camp for enemy aliens in Lancaster. There he taught wrestling and self defense, boasting that his students would emerge stronger than they were before being interned. It was here that he began devising his system of original exercises that later became “Contrology.” He was transferred to another camp on The Isle of Man where he became something of a nurse and worked with many internees who suffered from wartime diseases and incarceration. He then began devising equipment to rehabilitate them, taking the springs from the beds and rigging exercise apparatus for the bedridden. In 1918, a terrible epidemic of influenza swept the world, killing millions of people and tens of thousands in England. None of Joe’s followers succumbed even though the camps were the hardest hit.

After the war, Joe returned to Germany and began training the Hamburg Military Police in self- defense and physical training, as well as taking on personal clients. “I invented all these machines used to exercise rheumatic patients. I thought, why use my strength. So I made a machine to do it for me. You see, it resists your movement in just the right way so those inner muscles really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly.” Rudolf von Laban, a famous movement analyst, incorporated some of Joe’s theories and exercises into his own work. Mary Wigman, a famous German dancer and choreographer was a student of Joe’s and used his exercises in her dance class warm up.

It was en route to America that Joe met his future wife. She was a kindergarten teacher who was suffering from arthritic pain. Joe worked with her on the boat to heal her. Upon arriving in New York City, they opened a gym at 939 Eighth Avenue, in the same building as several dance studios and rehearsal spaces. It was this proximity that made “Contrology” such an intrinsic part of many dancers’ training and rehab work and many were sent to Joe to be “fixed.” Balanchine, the famous choreographer, studied with Joe as did another famous dancer/choreographer, Martha Graham.

Joe felt his work was “50 years ahead of his time.” Joe’s definition of physical fitness was: “the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable, naturally easy and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.” Joe believed in “natural movements” with the emphasis on doing and being. He has stated, “Everything should be smooth, like a cat. The key to working with apparatus is they make you do the work yourself. The fewer the springs, the harder the exercise. Springs provide and create endurance, not excess strength.” Carola Trier, a longtime student of Joe’s and teacher of his work said, “The work emphasizes restoring the body to true balance, ease and economy of movement and a channeled flow of energy.”

In January 1966, there was a fire in their building. Joe returned to his studio to try and save everything possible and fell through the burnt out floorboards, hanging by his hands from a beam for quite some time until rescued by firefighters. It is assumed that this incident directly led to his death in October 1967, at the age of 87. Clara, regarded by many as the more superb teacher, continued to teach and run the studio until her death 10 years later, in 1977.



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