Many people don’t know the story behind Pilates—the movement and the man. Back in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, a boy named Joseph Pilates was trying to heal himself of rickets and asthma by doing specific exercises he devised to improve muscle control and breathing. After successfully overcoming these ailments, he travelled to Europe and was enlisted to help the German army in England. There he taught wrestling and self defense, also teaching the movements he created, touting that it would help make participants stronger.
It was there that he began to work on injured and sick soldiers, rigging up their beds with springs and bars to make rehabilitation equipment that would enable them to follow the program he would later call “Contrology.” After the war, he returned to Germany where he gained popularity as a “fitness” instructor and health advocate, and by 1925, he was asked by the German government to train soldiers. Unsure of the direction the government was taking, he travelled to New York City where he used the exercises to train boxers and dancers.
As word of “Contrology” grew, so did his popularity among high society, athletes and dancers. He diligently taught and lectured everywhere, including hospitals and universities. When Joseph died in 1967, his methods were renamed “Pilates,” and as they say, the rest is history.
My training began in 2004, when it was introduced to me at a gym near Princeton, New Jersey. My teacher told me I was “a natural,” and that was all I needed to hear to get me enthused for life. I became certified in 2007 by a third generation student, meaning that my coach was taught by a woman who was taught by Joseph Pilates. Coincidentally, I followed in the footsteps of this great man and did my 20 hours of internship working with a friend who was going through chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. She did great and has been cancer free for 6 years.
Pilates has proven to me time and again that we are as resilient as we allow ourselves to be. For years, I have watched my student’s bodies take shape, their posture and balance improve, and more importantly, their self esteem rise. There is nothing more attractive than confidence that emanates from a straight stance with a head held high. Pilates should never be underestimated!
Next time, more specific information on how Pilates works, and what it can do for you and your sport.