by Fergal OP
Just what is Pilates anyway?
Have you heard about Pilates? I have practiced Pilates in Carlsbad, California just north of San Diego for going on ten years and I still get that question all the time. Pilates is an exercise regime that has grown by enormous amounts in the last decade. Movie and television stars extol the virtues of the Pilates method as a way to keep fit and toned.
Just what is it though? I have heard some outrageous things, such as it is an exercise regime developed by Pontus Pilate (remember him from the crucifixion of Jesus) to keep Roman Soldiers healthy and fit. No truth to that one however.
The exercise and fitness program was developed by a man named Joseph Pilates in the early twentieth century. As a child Joseph suffered from rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever, but Joseph had the thought that if the body is functioning in all it’s ways good health will follow. Joseph healed his own body with the help of the basic principles he would later continue to develop.
During World War One German born Joseph Pilates was living in England in an interment camp with other German nationals. During this time he helped nurse his fellow German nationals to good health with the principles that he would call “Contrology”. During the 1918 influenza outbreak that killed millions worldwide, it was noted that Joseph’s students all faired very well. Most interment camp were notorious for the inhabitants poor conditions and health.
It was during this pivotal time in an English interment camp as an “enemy alien” that he really furthered the principals of Contrology. Noting the animal world around him, how the animals stretched and moved, he transferred the same ideas to the human race. Further Joseph is said to have noted that if a horse trainer were to work with an animal it would force it to move.
The idea is simple and profound; the healthy human body is designed to move. The body that is inhibited from inactivity or malfunction is a body trending towards ill health. Better health flows from a body that moves to its capacity as long as it is moving in a manner that is safe. This is the method of movement Joseph Pilate taught and encouraged and called Contrology.
In order to facilitate the movement Joseph Pilates developed machines and equipment designed to work with resistance and enable the person to move easier with less fatigue. Eventually the person graduates to more resistance as the person’s body strengthens. Although certainly today much of the Pilates method is practiced without any equipment, machinery is still widely employed enabling those participants (many whose movements are otherwise constricted) to concentrate on specific areas of the body.
In 1925 Joseph Pilates was asked to train the German Forces towards good health and movement. Pilates instead moved to New York City where with his wife Clara he began to teach Contrology mostly to dancers and performers who would often over work their bodies and need some type of rehabilitation. The name Contrology did not stick however, the students preferred to shorten it to the easier to pronounce phrase “we are going to Joe’s, or going to Pilates’.
Joseph Pilates helped to create a method of movement he said was fifty years ahead of his time. Since his death in 1967 in relevant obscurity to the current reality of over ten million Pilate’s participants worldwide proves he was right about quite a bit.
Michele Tandy having owned and operated Pilates Studios in the Los Angeles area she moved to Carlsbad, California and opened California Pilates Center in 2003. California Pilates Center is a fully equipped Pilates studio that offers a full array of classes and courses to indivuals and groups of any experience level.