woman-practicing-pilates-on-reformer
(click to learn more about the Pilates Workout Reformer)

 

From a fairly young age, I have always been fascinated by Pilates and the countless benefits that come with regular practice of this style. Having been an avid dancer throughout my teens/early 20’s and, someone who adores all creative forms of movement, Pilates has held a special place in my heart from the very beginning.

Whilst I find the exercise itself a captivating topic, it’s the origin of this training style that is truly worth talking about. It’s a question that I get asked a lot when chatting about this passion of mine and something I think all those interested in the practice should know the answer to… “Who created Pilates?”.

If you’re interested in learning more about who founded the Pilates principle, exactly how it was developed and the reasons behind it’s creation then you have come the right place my friend!

It really is an interesting tale…

 

Meet Joseph Pilates

 

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The father of this life changing method is non other than German-born Joseph Pilates (as pictured above). Would you believe that he is 57 years old in this photo?

Quite a handsome man even in his middle-aged days… wouldn’t you agree ladies!?

If I am going to start from the very beginning, I should probably commence by telling you that Joseph Pilates was born on December 9, 1883 in Mönchengladbach, Germany. Unfortunately, Joseph became a young boy of poor health who also suffered from a lot of nasty bullying throughout his schooldays in the late 1880’s.

Joseph’s parents consisted of an award-winning gymnast and a naturopath. Having two such intelligent and health conscious role models growing up played a massive part in his decision to head down a similar path. However, it was his own sickness and subjection to school bullying that solidified his chosen career.

The poor boy suffered not only from asthma, rheumatic fever and rickets but he also lost all sight out of his left eye at the age of 5 theoretically due to awful, older kids throwing stones at him. Does this not make you so mad to read!?

Instead of letting his undesirable circumstances rule his life, Joseph picked up the courage to change his future. He decided to take up weight training to completely re-design his whole body. He also took part in vigorous sports such as body-building, gymnastics, wrestling, skiing, boxing, diving, martial arts, yoga and more.

By 14 years of age, due to all his hard training Pilates had achieved a body similar to that of a Greek-Adonis. He was literally being asked to pose as a buff fitness model for anatomy charts and drawings. Very impressive, huh!

As he grew older, Joseph continued to research and experiment with every type of physical exercise that he could get his hands on. He went on to study the complex subject of anatomy and, by 1912 (aged 32) he moved to England where he become a qualified boxer.

Joseph Pilates impressive resume does not end there though. Whilst in England, he later went on to teach Scotland Yard detectives the art of self-defence and, following this he landed himself the position of a circus acrobat. By this stage, what hadn’t Pilates accomplished!?

Well… during his own personal development journey, Joseph Pilates had become mesmerised with the ancient Greek ideal of the perfect male specimen.

He adored their philosophy so much so that it inspired him to create a series of comprehensive exercises and workout sequences of his own. The overall purpose of these movements were to correct ones’ muscular issues which would in turn lead to the improvement of posture, flexibility, balance, strength, fitness and co-ordination.

 

World War I and the Development of “Contrology”

 

It was during his lengthy time as an intern and nurse during World War I that Joseph Pilates really began to experiment with the use of “apparatus”.

After a great amount of trialling and recording his results, he declared the official name of his carefully developed practice “Contrology”. It wasn’t until a whole lot later that his method would be retitled to reflect his own last name.

He began by taking basic hospital beds and attaching a run of springs that would provide varying resistance for each user.

He then started getting his patients to use these contraptions in order to tone their muscles and heal their injuries whilst still having to remain in bed on recovery.

Little did he or anyone of that time know that this seemingly simple invention would later come to be widely recognised as the term we know very well today as the “Reformer”.

If only he could see just how popular and beneficial his practice has become for people living in todays society!

 

The Philosophy of Pilates

 

So now that we know who the prodigy was behind this amazing practice and, how it was initially developed in the 1920’s… it’s time to take a quick look into the actual philosophy behind his method.

The question now is not who created Pilates but, what is the underlying intention of this practice?

jospeh-pilates-on-reformer As Joseph Pilates once said Contrology is not a system of haphazard exercises designed to produce only bulging muscles.” instead it’s purpose is to “develop the body uniformly, correct posture, restore vitality, invigorate the mind and elevate the spirit.”

It is as clear as day that Joseph Pilates intended for his method to be recognised as a form of exercise that not only transformed one physically but also mentally and spiritually. He strongly believed that the health and well being of both the body and mind are wholeheartedly intertwined.

Two very common quotes by Pilates that I believe go hand in hand are “It is the mind itself which shapes the body”. “The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy.”

When practiced completely and correctly, I think that this is 100% spot on. This is something I myself have definitely experienced throughout my years learning the ropes of this training style.

 

Lets Keep His Dream Alive

 

Now here we are in 2019, a whopping 52 years after the passing of this absolute mastermind. For those who are curious to know, Joseph Pilates passed on at the age of 84 in 1967.

His remarkable legacy has continued to shine brightly across the globe to this very day thanks to the ongoing love and loyalty from the “Pilates Elders”. Basically, this term refers to the original followers, students and health pioneers that worked alongside Pilates himself.

If you have had the chance to check out our other recent blog posts then you will already be well aware that nowadays this incredible practice is available to all in many forms and styles.

In fact, Pilates has become SO popular of late that many of the fun and diverse classes that we see today have only come about in the past couple of years.

However, no matter how new these various classes may be, one thing remains set in stone. That is, the traditional movements and exercises developed by Joseph Pilates himself as well as his deep-rooted focus on the strengthening of the “power house” muscles and use of his controlled breathing technique at all times.

One things for sure, here at My Pilates Collective we sincerely believe in this practice and I personally have obtained the benefits of this exercise over the years.

If you haven’t already, we highly recommend you give Pilates a go for yourself. It will change your life in so many positive ways!

 

 

 

Thank-you for taking the time to read our latest article and if you have any questions or feedback for us, we would love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Yours Truly,

Kiara – Site Founder

My Pilates Collective

www.mypilatescollective.com

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20 Comments

  1. Hi, I enjoyed your post very much!
    It is truly inspiring and motivating to hear the story of Joseph Pilates who overcame such early childhood difficulties by devoting himself to form one of the most important and popular sports practices.
    Pilates is so important for the mental and physical health that I think everyone should try it.
    Michael

    1. Hi Michael, so happy to hear you liked it!

      100% agree with you, it is very upsetting to learn of the struggles that he endured early on in life but he has created such a magnificent form of exercise that will be loved by all for many decades to come.

      That’s absolutely right, it is such a great way to achieve both a physical and mental workout 🙂

  2. I’ve actually read about his history before but nothing this thorough. Very interesting man! I would have guessed he was in his late 30s at most in the picture. Truly excellent shape for a man that would have definitely been considred “senior” back in those days.

    I love the fact that he actually experimented virtually all forms of strength training and sports that require strength before forming his method. It’s clear he had a deep understanding and experience abouth the human anatomy and physique. I love the fact that he eventually settled in a rather minimalistic training that’s mostly based on calisthenics instead of complex machines or weights. I’ve always though of pilates as “calisthenics meets physio therapy” kinda exercise and I think his background confirms this don’t you think? Thanks for the read!

    1. Hi Jukka, that’s exactly what we thought upon seeing this picture too. He had such a fantastic physique for someone of his age!

      I love your personal review of this article and totally agree with you on your opinion of the training style. That is a perfect way of explaining it!

      My pleasure, so glad you enjoyed reading this.

  3. That was a very insightful read for me. I know Pilates is super popular but I didn’t know a thing about its creator. Recently I learned about the creator of Tae Bo Billy Blanks and I realized that I’ve seen him in cheap action flicks lol.
    Other than that I really like the idea behind Contrology. I’m even eager to try practicing Pilates and my wife is already laughing here so I stop writing this comment right now 🙂

    1. Hi Asen, thanks so much for your feedback. That’s awesome that you got a lot out of our article 🙂

      Absolutely, we highly recommend you give this practice a go for yourself… you’ll love it!

  4. I’m doing Pilates as well and I can say that many people underestimate this exercise. You’re gonna use muscles you didn’t know existed and you would feel so different if you train the muscles every day. You’ll see, your posture will improve!
    I’ve always wondered where that name came from. It’s a very interesting story and sad at the same time about Joseph Pilates’ life.
    Thank you for sharing this post, I really enjoyed reading it.

    1. So true Anh-Tu! It is a remarkable form of exercise that works every large and small muscle in your body! We’re so glad that you are experiencing the benefits of this practice for yourself and happy to hear that you liked our article 🙂

  5. Wow, it’s really interesting to finally meet the giant behind the great Pilates. I’ve been reading about Pilate for quite a while now but trust me this is the first time I’m reading about his life and his lifestyle, how he fought through his childhood, it’s also nice to know of the mindset behind him creating the Pilates. Even though I’m not really into that practice, I’m so enthusiastic now to be a part of just by reading through this article and it’s nice. Pilate is good for the body and also for our mental health so it should be encouraged. Thanks a lot for sharing this article, it’s been useful.

    1. Hi James, thanks very much for your comment.

      It’s so amazing isn’t it… I think we would all love to be as in shape as he was at his age. Wouldn’t that be nice, totally possible though 🙂

      So happy to hear that you’re walking away from this article with new found inspiration. We love that 🙂

      Have a fantastic day!
       

  6. Wow, What an great article! Hello there Good day to you I just want to start by saying your article is very informative, educating, motivating, and heart touching. I started reading and honestly when I got to the part where he was bullied and had early on sickness, I just had to read on to find out how he became the Pilates Guru/Genius also the picture of him at 57 Wow we hope that’s me at his age lol. I really can’t find any thing negative to say about your article its very factual and nicely written good job to you and I wish you much success in your articles I look forward to reading many more my friend! 

    1. Hi Ramone, thank-you so much for your positive feedback on our article. Wonderful to hear that you enjoyed reading and learning about the origin of Pilates 🙂

      It really is an incredible story isn’t it! Shows us all that we have the power to change our lives if we put our heart and soul to it.

      We hope you have a great day!

  7. Great article. I totally agree with you. Anyone who has not tried Pilates should. Several years ago I was in that position never having try it. After deciding to bite the bullet and try it at our local community center it was such a fantastic workout. It was a decision I am glad I made. After the initial session I decided to join a weekly program offered in our local leisure guide. After the 8-week program I lost 15 pounds and was in way better shape. Anyone who hasn’t tried Pilates should give it a try. Usually you can find programs in you local area, which are fairly reasonable cost. Good luck.

    1. Hi Scotty, wow that is fantastic news! I’m so thrilled to hear that you had such a positive result from your 8 week Pilates program, you should be very proud! 

      So many people underestimate the power of this practice. As the man himself once said “In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see a difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body”. This truly is the real deal!

  8. Wow, I never knew the history behind this man. He looked extremely healthy at 57 years old! It is amazing that he ended up accomplishing so much after enduring such a rough childhood! Incredible that he was able to help those injured in WWI with just springs to provide resistance. I have never tried Pilates myself, I never realized how much results you could have doing such exercises. Thank you for the information!

    1. Hi Travis, he truly was amazing wasn’t he! Such an inspiration for us all. 

      My pleasure, glad to hear that you enjoyed reading our post.

  9. This is actually the first time I’m coming across the history of Pilate and the story of the great man behind it’s wheels. Joseph Pilate was a very strong man and I have learned a lot from his lifestyle especially how he arrived and struggled to overcome the challenges of his childhood and explore more of the life of sports. It’s a great things he’s immortalized in the practice of Pilate. I’ll also join the train of Pilates as soon as possible since it’s of benefit to the mind and to the physical body. Thanks.

    1. Hi Wilde, I’m so glad that you learn’t a lot from our article. Our goal is to help inform others and spread the word about Pilates benefits and it’s rich origin to people all around the globe… I’m very happy to see/hear that it’s working 🙂

      Have a wonderful day!

  10. Wow, great read. Never read the history of Pilates. Being an avid hiker, I have always swayed more towards yoga. Think I am going to give Pilates a go! Keep up the great posts.

    1. Hi Natalie, thanks very much for your feedback.

      That’s fantastic that you’re thinking of giving the practice a go, I dare say you will enjoy it a lot!

      Let me know if you have any questions whatsoever.

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