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The amazing story of Joseph Pilates the founder of Pilates

10th February 2020

The amazing story of Joseph Pilates the founder of Pilates

The story of Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates.

The foundation Years of Joseph Pilates

Pilates had humble beginnings when it all started. The thereapeutic exercises evolved from a man who went by the name of Joseph Pilates. Joseph was born and raised in Germany by his father and mother in a town called Mönchengladbach. His father was a prize winning gymnast from Greece, and his mother was a naturopath who believed in the principle of stimulating the body to heal itself.

From a young age, Joseph had struggled with poor health and illnesses, like asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. He wanted to rid himself of these conditions that would often leave him feeling weak and helpless. The school bullies would frequently taunt him, because he was smaller and weaker than them. Thus, Joseph took it upon himself, to help improve his well-being and overall condition.

Joseph Pilates studied anatomy, bodybuilding, wrestling, yoga, gymnastics, and martial arts.

His mother was to explain to him that alot of illness's are caused by inefficient breathing, poor lifestyle choices, or posture. When his mother would give him these lessons on anatomy, he would be full of joy and curiousity. As a result, of this curiousity and burning desire, he began to self-educate himself "in anatomy, bodybuilding, wrestling, yoga, gymnastics, and martial arts."

By the age of 14, he had reached the Anatomical ideal. He had even began posing as a model for anatomy charts. He had developed a deep understanding of the "Greek ideal of a man who is balanced equally in body, mind, and spirit". This would go on to influence his Pilates teaching far into the future. 

Pilates is about using resistance to strengthen muscles. In Pilates, it involves the breath, focus, and paying attention to your body. Thus, it includes the body, mind and spirit.

Joseph worked on slow, precise movements and breath control to help his students.

Pilates classes dramatically improves abdominal endurance, flexibility, and balance.

In 2016 a study found that eight weeks of Pilates classes "dramatically improved abdominal endurance, flexibility, and balance." Joseph devised two ways of help increasing these improvements in people who took up the practise.

The two ways were: mat classes and reformer classes.

The mat classes involve "physical exercises that help to correct muscular imbalances and improve posture, coordination, balance, strength, and flexibility." The reformer classes have a very interesting background.

The Origins of Pilates Reformer Equipment

When Joseph Pilates was kept as a prisoner under the false suspician of being a German spy, on the Isle of Man during the First World War, the story goes that "he insisted that everyone in his cell block participate in daily exercise routines to help maintain both their physical and mental well-being." The biography continues by saying..

"However, some of the injured German soldiers were too weak to get out of bed. Not content to leave his comrades lying idle, Pilates took springs from the beds and attached them to the headboards and footboards of the iron bed frames, turning them into equipment that provided a type of resistance exercise for his bedridden "patients."

This is what inspiried the reformer class, a variey of machines that help people to perform thereapuetic exercises for the body.

Watch the archive video of Joseph Pilates using his early reformer machine.

In an interview with Heather Andersen, the founder of New York Pilates, she said "the reformer experience is maybe the most fun you'll have in a Pilates class. The machine gives you added resistance and a sliding surface that challenges your workout. It often feels like you’re flying or gliding."

The earliest sutdents of Pilates and especially the reformer classes were professional dancers, who responded well to these methods. Soon, his teaching became famous and reknowned amongst the worlds best choreographers such as "George Balanchine, as well as other movement visionaries such as Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, Ruth St. Denis, and Jerome Robbins".

Pilates a new way of improving the movement of the human body

The choreographers and movement visionaries, saw Pilates as a new way of improving the movement of the human body, whilst also being important in their dancers physical and mental well being. The teachings have spread to over 9.5 million people who are practising Pilates today. Those who were able to meet Joseph Pilates, quickly became firm believers in his methods.

Looking back, Joseph Pilates would be proud of his methods, and how they have been able to help so many people around the world. It all started when he was a young boy, and grew during the war when he assisted his fellow prison inmates to improve their fragile condition.

From that point on, his teachings have grown, and new people are trying his classes every day. After decades of teaching, Joseph Pilates passed away in New York City, on the October 9th, 1967, at the age of 84.

This has been the story of Joseph Pilates, and how his compassion for the human condition gave him the energy and passion to help people all over the world. If you are interested in practising Pilates, which helps improve the body, mind and soul, you can find Pilates mat and reformer classes on Pilates Near You, or at Near You.Best.

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Source: Saul Auty