JOSEPH PILATES - FROM CIRCUS PERFORMER TO FITNESS PROPHET
They, along with millions of other people, practice Pilates.
German-born Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) was a bullied, sickly child who suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. As he grew up, he devoted his life to developing a self-improvement system, drawn from Zen and the ancient Greek notion of a man ideal in body, mind and spirit. He came to believe that bad posture and improper breathing were the causes of poor health.
While working in England as a circus performer and boxer, he was placed in forced internment due to the outbreak of World War I. Since he didn't have access to exercise equipment, he developed a series of integrated mat exercises that he termed "Contrology." He trained other inmates, and he is credited with getting them in such good condition that they all survived the 1918 flu epidemic.
After the war, he returned to Germany where he collaborated with exercise and dance experts to fine-tune his method. When he was asked to train the German Army, though, he emigrated to the United States. On the boat ride over, he met his future wife, Clara. The two opened a Pilates studio in New York and taught students there well into the 1960s.
Classical Pilates refers to the original exercises developed by Pilates and allows for no variation in the method or order of the exercises. Many instructors teach this way at least initially so that the basics can be learned as Pilates intended, by building strength from the inside out.
In 2000, a court ruled that the term "Pilates" could not be trademarked. As a result, anyone can use the term and take liberties with the original system by incorporating moves from current kinesiology research or adding equipment, for example. There are even hybrids with other types of exercise, such as piloxing (Pilates and kickboxing) or yogalates (Pilates and yoga).
If you're interested in trying Pilates in your own home, the Denver Public Library has the resources to get you started.
The 10 Minute Solution Series is great because it allows you to choose as many or as few as you wish of the five 10-minute mini-sessions. I recommend those made by Lara Hudson, an award-winning Chicago-based fitness professional who happened to grow up in Denver.
Pilates: Tu Plan Personal en 15 Minutos by Alycea Ungaro (Spanish, 2009)