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The History of Pilates

A few years ago the new craze of fitness was ‘Pilates’. At first no one knew what Pilates really was, where it came from and how it became so popular, seemingly instantaneously. Pilates sounded more like a subdivision of pirate activities rather than the be all and end all of core strength, pelvic stability and alignment.

In order to properly understand the Pilates method it’s important to have a perspective of both the man Joseph Pilates and his times. Joseph Pilates was born of Greek parentage in 1880 near Dusseldorf in Germany.

Growing up he was frail, suffering from rickets and rheumatic fever at a time when Europe was becoming interested in physical exercise and the popularization of the ‘spa’ concept and the emergence of group exercise.

By the 1890’s Joseph was determined to overcome his physical frailty and began to study many exercise philosophies like yoga, martial arts, and the practice of Zen.

He later developed into an avid sportsman, diving, skiing, boxing and practicing gymnastics.

By the age of 32 Joseph moved to the United Kingdom where he made a living as a professional boxer, circus performer and self defense instructor. At this stage he became renowned as a boxer and Scotland Yard asked him to begin training the police.

At the outbreak of WW1 the English placed him in an internment camp as an enemy alien’. It was here that he devised his methodology, devising programs for many of the other internees. “Later he would boast, “that because of his regime, not a single one of his fellow internees was laid low by the influenza pandemic that killed thousands in England in 1918” (Friedman and Eisen, 1980)

Pilates’ success with the internees became known to the English and he was transferred to the Isle of Man where he worked to rehabilitate the injured at war.

It was here that he realized that load bearing exercises helped to develop muscles faster. And he became attaching springs to the hospital beds. This led him to the invention of his famous apparatus the Pilates Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda chair, High Barrel and Ped’O’Pull. In addition he wrote a book called “Return to Life through Contrology which outlined his sequence of Mat based exercises which could be practiced on the floor.

Later Pilates moved to New York City where he opened his first Pilates studio that then spawned the proliferation of Pilates Globally.

If your interested to get a taste of his methodology then head to one of our signature Pilates Mat classes at Yoga House Dubai.

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