History of Pilates

“Contrology”: The History of Joseph Pilates and his Method of Body Conditioning

JosephPilates-lrg.jpg“Time and progress are synonymous terms – nothing can stop either.  Truth will prevail and that is why I know my teachings will reach the masses and finally be adopted as universal.”  Joseph H. Pilates

Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in 1880.  While growing up in Germany, Pilates experienced various ailments and illnesses including rickets and asthma.  In hope of defeating these physical barriers, Pilates developed his body and soon became an avid gymnast, diver and boxer.  

In 1914, Pilates was interned in England during WWI.  Pilates, while working with wounded soldiers, developed a system of exercises that even the bedridden could perform.  His method of body conditioning was intended to strengthen and improve flexibility of muscles, emphasizing the abdominals and muscles in the back.  Over the years, Pilates developed several pieces of equipment that used springs to create resistance and condition the muscles.  The most widely used pieces of equipment include the “Reformer,” the “Cadillac,” and the “Wunda Chair.”  

Joseph Pilates and his wife, Clara, moved to the US in the mid-1920s and opened a studio in which he taught his method of body conditioning.  Pilates’ method was widely accepted and used within the New York City dance community and soon spread to the general public.  This method he called “Contrology,” emphasizing the amount of control needed to execute the exercises.  Pilates promoted his method so that it would be a universal system of exercise for all to benefit from.  Joseph Pilates died in 1967.  

Many of Pilates’ students became instructors themselves, including Naja Corey, Eve Gentry, Kathy Grant, Ron Fletcher, Bruce King, Bob Steed, Carola Trier, and Romana Kryzanowska.  Lesa McLaughlin, the owner of Excel Pilates DC is the second generation of Pilates instructors and was a pupil of Romana Kryzanowska, master teacher.  

Today, the Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is taught worldwide, as the legacy of Joseph Pilates lives on.