Who invented Pilates?

Joseph Pilates(1883-1967) developed his comprehensive system of exercise originally called ‘Contrology’ that later became known as the Pilates Method. He defined Contrology as “the comprehensive integration of body,  mind and spirit.”

Pilates’ belief that “physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness”was shaped in particular by two significant events in his life: overcoming poor childhood health and a period of internment during WWI that lead him to consider ways to  rehabilitate injured soldiers after the war.

The Pilates Method was the result of a lifetime’s study and practice drawing on a diverse variety of disciplines that included gymnastics, bodybuilding, diving, wrestling, boxing, skiing, self-defense, dance, athletics, Western and Eastern philosophy including Zen Buddhism and Yoga. He also studied human anatomy, observation of animal motion and  even posed for anatomical charts and spent a period as a circus performer.

Joseph Pilates  wrote several books on his method, developed over 500 exercises and invented/patented numerous pieces of exercise equipment.

Following his death at the age of 84, his wife and other ‘disciples’ of his method (known as the ‘Pilates Elders’: who were the first generation of teachers taught directly by Pilates) continued to pass on the knowledge through instructor-training techniques to subsequent generations.

New variants of Pilates have emerged but all retain a strong connection to the original ‘classical style’ which is sometimes referred to as ‘Authentic Pilates’. The Pilates Guild™ is an international organization dedicated to the preservation of Pilates in its purest form.

Pilates is now one of the fastest growing forms of exercise in the world e.g. the number of participants in the US rose 600% from 1.7 million to 10.6 million in just 6 years between 2000-2006, and its benefits are now openly acknowledged both by the medical and scientific communities.

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