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about Pilates


Joseph H. Pilates was born on the 9th of December 1883 in Germany. As little child he was constantly sick,  he suffered from asthma, rachitis and rheumatic fever. He was introduced by his father to gymnastics and body-building, and to martial arts like jiu-jitsu and boxing. By the age of 14, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. Pilates came to believe that the modern life-style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. Pilates was originally a gymnast and bodybuilder, but when he moved to England in 1912, he earned a living as a professional boxer, a circus-performer, and a self-defense trainer at police schools and Scotland Yard.

During World War I the British authorities interned him, along with other German citizens, in Lancaster Castle, where he taught wrestling and self-defense, boasting that his students would emerge stronger than they were before their internment. It was there that he began refining and teaching his minimal equipment system of mat exercises that later became "Contrology". He was then transferred to another internment camp at Knockaloe on the Isle of Man. During that involuntary break, he began to intensively develop his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he himself called "Contrology". Some of the early use of Pilates's exercise methods included rehabilitation of seriously injured veterans. He studied yoga and the movements of animals and trained his fellow inmates in fitness and exercises.

After World War I, he returned to Germany and collaborated with important experts in dance and physical exercise In Hamburg and he trained police officers. After a while they wanted him to start training German army what he didn’t want to do, so he immigrated to the United States. That was around year 1925. On the ship to America, he met his future wife Clara. The couple founded a studio in New York City and directly taught and supervised their students well into the 1960s. Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 83 in New York.


Joe and Clara had a number of students who continued to teach variations of his method. One of the students was ballerina Romana Kryzanowska, who become Pilate's protoge. Kryzanowska started Pilates at the age of 16 following an ankle injury. Pilates said of her, "she's a natural". Kryzanowska was named a helper and started teaching Pilates alongside Pilates and his wife. Toward the end of his life, Pilates named Kryzanowska as the director of The Pilates Studio. Kryzanowska and her daughter continued to operate Pilates' original studio. Jay Grimes believes that nobody knows Joseph Pilates’ work better than Kryzanowska. Rebecca Leone, whose online classes I took was Kryzanowska’s student. She incorporated spine safe principles in modern Pilates methodology.


Joseph Pilates wrote several books, including Return to Life through Contrology and Your Health. In his book Return to Life through Contrology, Joseph Pilates presents his method as the art of controlled movements, which should look and feel like a workout (not a therapy) when properly manifested. If practiced with consistency, Pilates improves flexibility, builds strength and develops control and endurance in the entire body. It puts emphasis on alignment, breathing, developing a strong core, and improving coordination and balance. The core, consisting of the muscles of the abdomen, low back, and hips, is often called the "powerhouse" and is thought to be the key to a person's stability.  Pilates' system allows for different exercises to be modified in range of difficulty from beginner to advanced or to any other level, and also in terms of the instructor and practitioner's specific goals and/or limitations. Intensity can be increased over time as the body adapts itself to the exercise.


He ultimately developed a series of exercises and training techniques, and engineered all the equipment, specifications, and tuning required to teach his methods properly.

"Contrology" was Joseph Pilates' preferred name for his method, and it was based on the idea of muscle control.  All exercises are done with control, the muscles working to lift against gravity and the resistance of the springs and thereby control the movement of the body and the apparatus. "Contrology", related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles, focusing attention on core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine. His exercise regimen built flexibility, strength and stamina.


Pilates demands intense focus, the way that exercises are done is more important than the exercises themselves. The Pilates technique asserts that physical energy exerted from the center should coordinate movements of the extremities. Proximal stability for distal mobility. Precision is essential to correct Pilates. The focus is on doing one precise and perfect movement, rather than many halfhearted ones. Here Pilates reflects common physical culture wisdom, gaining more from a few energetic efforts than from many listless ones. The goal is for this precision to eventually become second nature and carry over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement.  Using correct posture while doing Pilates exercises improves safety by correcting muscle imbalances and optimizing coordination. Correct muscle firing patterns and improved mental concentration are enhanced with relaxation. With increased precision, motion becomes more efficient so there is less stress to perform the exercises.

Contemporary Pilates includes both the "modern" Pilates and the "classical/traditional" Pilates.

Pilates teacher using verbal and tactile feedback to ensure proper physical form during exercise performance.

"Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness"

Joseph H. Pilates

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