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A History Lesson of Pilates

'What is Pilates and where did it come from?' I get asked this alot along with “is Pilates the same as yoga?” I’ll leave the yoga comparison for another blog post but today I want to talk about Pilates and how it came about.

This is a slightly abridged version of its history but Pilates has been around for over 90 years and is named after Joseph Pilates - the brilliant man who developed the method originally called “Contrology”. He developed Contrology during the First World War when he was interned with other German nationals and later in the War when he was an orderly at a hospital. He used his method to help rehab those who were unable to walk. We still use the equipment he designed today albeit slightly modified in some instances for health and safety reasons!

Joseph Pilates continued to develop and teach his method (along with his wife Clara) in his ‘body conditioning gym’ in New York. Luckily for us, he wrote his method down in two books, most notably in “Return to Life Through Contrology”, in 1945. Contrology was only renamed “The Pilates Method” after his death at 83 in 1967.

Along with his wife Clara, Joseph taught his method to others in New York (the “Pilates Elders”) who then subsequently taught it to others which has meant that we are able to practice the joy of Pilates now, all these years after his death.

The method has subsequently evolved into “Classical” and “Modern” or "Contemporary" Pilates. Classical Pilates stays true to the core principles of Pilates’s work and utilises the equipment as Pilates did and Modern/Contemporary Pilates which although is very much based on his original work, has developed further to take into account the bio-mechanical advances we have made both on the mat and in the equipment studio.

So there you have it, a short history of Pilates and how it came about. If you want to know more about what Pilates actually is, keep an eye out for my next blog. Until next time!

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