Did you know there was a man named Pilates?
Joseph Pilates, the namesake for the fitness practice, was born in Germany in 1883, and as a young child suffered several ailments including asthma. He exercised to combat the effects of his health conditions and ultimately became an avid skier, boxer, diver and gymnast as an adult. In pursuit of finding new exercises to expand his repertoire, he studied Greek practices and loved their ideal of a balanced body, mind and spirit. This became an essential element of his own exercise practice.
In 1912, Joseph went to England where he trained Scotland Yard detectives in self-defense. Once World War I broke out, he was held as an “enemy alien” for being German. While interned, he refined his exercise system and shared it with other prisoners including those confined to hospital beds. His rigging system of springs on hospital beds allowed patients to exercise against resistance, and was a precursor to later Pilates equipment designs. When a flu epidemic killed thousands of people in 1918—but not one of who used his system succumbed to the outbreak—he believed it confirmed the benefits of his practice.
Once he was released, he went back to Germany and his system became popular in the dance community. Many of the dance adaptations developed back then based on Pilates are still used today including the “Holm Technique.” Even though German officials invited Joseph to train the German army using his techniques, he decided to immigrate to the United States in 1926.
Pilates Comes to America
On the way to the United States, Joseph met Clara Zuener who he would ultimately marry. They landed in New York and opened a body-conditioning gym in 1926. The studio featured many pieces of equipment modeled after items he used in his rehabilitation work back in England. Once again, his techniques became extremely popular among dancers who valued his method to improve their technique and recovery from injury. George Balanchine, a choreographer and co-founder of the New York City Ballet, invited Joe to teach his ballerinas the method.
When Joseph died in 1967 at the age of 83, his wife Clara and Pilates Elders (those who had trained with Joseph in the original New York studio) continued to teach and train using the method. Many of Joseph’s former students opened their own studios and spread its influence to California where it became favored by Hollywood elite in the 1970s.
Today, studios can be found all across the world that serve the more than 12 million people who practice Pilates who are not only dancers and Hollywood stars but also people from all walks of life including professional and Olympic athletes as well as those who are new to exercise.
At Taylor Pilates and Fitness, we still practice the core principles of Pilates as Joseph originally developed them—breath, concentration, centering, control, precision and flow—to encompass mind, body and spirit. We integrate the latest research in the science of movement/bio-mechanics as the field is always evolving. We customize every Pilates session to your unique needs.
Please call us at 303-472-6743 to schedule your next session.