History of Pilates
Pilates was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates in Germany. As of 2005 there are 11 million people who practice the discipline regularly and 14,000 instructors in the United States.
Pilates called his method Contrology, because he believed his method uses the mind to control the muscles. The program focuses on the core postural muscles which help keep the body balanced and which are essential to providing support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and alignment of the spine, and aim to strengthen the deep torso muscles.
Joseph Pilates created ‘The Pilates Principles’ to condition the entire body: proper alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flowing movement.
Pilates was a sickly child and suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever, and he dedicated his entire life to improving his physical strength. Besides skiing frequently, he began studying body building, yoga, ‘cong fu’ (probably what we now call qigong), and gymnastics. 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. He ultimately devised a series of exercises and training-techniques and engineered all the equipment, specifications, and tuning required to teach his methods properly.
Pilates was originally a gymnast, diver, and bodybuilder, but when he moved to England in 1912, he earned a living as a professional boxer, circus-performer, and self-defense trainer at police schools and Scotland Yard. Nevertheless, the British authorities interned him during World War I along with other German citizens in a concentration camp on the Isle of Man. During this involuntary break, he began to intensively develop his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he himself called “Contrology.” He studied yoga and the movements of animals and trained his fellow inmates in fitness and exercises. It is told that these inmates survived the great pandemic of 1918 due to their good physical shape.
The STOTT PILATES® method was developed in the 1980s and is continually refined by Moira Merrithew and Lindsay G. Merrithew. In collaboration with physical therapists, sports medicine and fitness professionals, they have spent more than two decades refining the STOTT PILATES method to ensure it’s aligned with current scientific and biomechanical research.
Moira Merrithew received her Pilates training from Romana Kryzanowska, a protégé of Joseph Pilates, following her career as a principal dancer with the City Ballet of Toronto and the Atlantic Ballet Company.