Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born on December 9th, 1883 outside Dusseldorf, Germany. His father was a gymnast, as well as a mechanic and other “fix it” type jobs. His mother, who reared 9 children, was said to have been a “naturopath.” Joseph wasn’t a healthy child, suffering from poor vision and weak immunity. He worked as a boxer and gymnast, then eventually gathered his things and moved to England in 1912, where he found the circus. War broke out and he enlisted, moving to the Isle of Man where he began inspiring others with his genius ways. Working in the hospital, he took the bed springs and hooked them to bed posts, using them to build stronger muscles on his patients. It must have worked, because Pilates claims none of them succumbed to the flu epidemic in 1918. In 1925, Pilates moved to the United States. On the ship over, he met Clara, who eventually became his common law wife. On the ship, he helped heal her arthritic pain which gave Clara a “new meaning on life.” He started an exercise gym on 8th Avenue in New York City. The gym, close to many dance studios, brought in dancers who would rehabilitate their sore muscles, gain strength and build muscles.
His method, Contrology, now known as the Pilates Method, came into place when he created his legacy, 34 exercises that built strength and control with the abdominal muscles. Contrology coordinates the mind, body and spirit, rebuilding the body, restoring posture and bringing back natural coordination. Powerful results benefit mastery of the mind over complete control of the body. Dormant muscles and cells are revived and eventually create more brain cells. Pilates claimed that if one starts with only 10 minutes of his exercises per day, eventually building up to 20 minutes, the heart will pump more effectively, shooting more oxygen to the bloodstream and filtering out debris and toxins. His book, “Return to Life Through Contrology” was published in 1945. Over 500 exercises have been created since.
The Pilates Principles are:
Pilates Health Principles
- Proper diet and sleep must accompany exercise.
- Fresh air and sunshine daily.
- Wear shorts outside to embrace the rays of the sun; loose clothing important.
- Have food always on hand, but only refuel when nutrients have been lost and are needed.
- Do not fear the cold in the winter.
- Do not overdo exercise: muscle fatigue can ignite poisons on the body.
- Sleep: use a firm mattress, do not use more than 1 pillow and keep room dark and quiet.
- Baths: We are not that “clean” if we are not cleaning out pores. Use dry brush daily.
Whether we adhere to Joseph Pilates reasoning to health or not, the genius health guru has benefited the world with beautiful exercises, helped correct postures and rehabilitated the masses. Joseph Pilates was way ahead of his time and we thank him for it.
The Return to Contrology; Joseph Pilates and William John Miller; 1998 (originally published in 1945)
Photo: Courtesy of Google