Joseph Pilates, founder of the Pilates method
Born in 1883 Joseph Pilates was the son of a prize-winning gymnast and naturopath. No doubt his mother’s naturopathic and healing philosophy together with his father’s physical achievements greatly influenced Pilates’ later ideas on therapeutic exercise.
Joseph was a small, sickly child who suffered with asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Determined to overcome his physical disadvantage he began to self-educate in anatomy, bodybuilding, wrestling, martial arts, yoga and of course gymnastics. By the age of 14 he was posing for anatomical charts and was also an accomplished skier, diver and boxer.
He admired the classical Greek ideal of man who is balanced equally in body, mind and spirit and he became to believe that modern lifestyle, bad posture, and inefficient breathing were the roots of poor health.
Joseph moved to England in 1912 and toured as a professional boxer, circus performer and even taught self-defence to the Scotland Yard police force. But when war broke out he found himself interned in England as an enemy alien on the Isle of Man. It is during his internment during World War 1 that he developed a comprehensive system of physical exercises he called ‘Contrology’ – encouraging the use of the mind to control the muscles.
In 1925 Joseph moved to New York with his wife and together they opened the first Body Contrology Studio on 8th Avenue at 56th Street, Manhattan. Pilates’ exercises focus attention to the core postural muscles to help keep the body balanced and provide support to the spine. Equal importance is also given to the teaching of awareness of breath and alignment to the spine, strengthening the deep torso and abdominal muscles.
Quotes from Joseph Pilates
“We should recognise the mental functions of the mind and the physical limitations of the body so that complete coordination between them may be achieved.”
“Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit. Through Contrology you first purposely acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercises you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities.”
“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old! If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young!”
“A body free from nervous tension and fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well balanced mind, fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living.”