Joseph Pilates (1883-1963) was a German-born gymnast, dancer, and trainer who developed his comprehensive approach to fitness over a lifetime of research. Though his system of exercise has only recently broken into the mainstream, Pilates originally created it at the turn of the 20th century. During the early 1900s, Joseph Pilates drew from martial arts, dance, yoga, and acrobatics to create a fitness regime that strengthened both the body and mind. He believed that mental and physical health were interrelated and that intense mental focus or “firing” of specific muscles would bolster mind-body connection and boost one’s overall wellness.
Pilates’ revolutionary technique emphasized mental control of bodily movement, awareness of one’s breathing, correct posture, and engagement of the core muscles that support the spine for each exercise. He fundamentally believed that the way his exercises were performed was more important than the exercises themselves. He defined the core as a muscular network which provides control over the entire body and is compromised of the inner thighs, pelvic floor, abdomen, and back muscles. Strengthening these muscles would inevitably build a solid foundation for all movement.
During World War I, when Pilates was interned with other German nationalists, he created the first Reformer by rigging springs to a hospital bed. It was here that he refined his ideas and trained other internees in his system of exercise. After his release, Pilates and his wife Clara moved to the United States and opened their first fitness studio together. They shared an address with the New York City Ballet and saw this innovative exercise system grow in popularity with both classical and modern dancers. Since then, performers have continued to use Pilates to refine and enhance their physical expression and artistic craft.
In the last 10 years, Pilates has gained extraordinary momentum within the mainstream. Because of its inherent precision and attention to detail, Pilates is accessible and beneficial to men and women of all ages and physical abilities.