— Joseph Pilates
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”
The History of Pilates
Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. As a child, his physicality was challenged by many illness including asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. He overcame his disadvantages by educating himself in bodybuilding, yoga, wrestling, gymnastics and martial arts. After becoming an accomplished boxer, diver and skier Pilates became a circus performer with a physique known as one to resemble a statue of a Greek god.
During WWI, Joseph was sent to an internment camp in England. It is said he was teaching self-defense to the Scotland Yard police force when the war broke out and then became targeted as an enemy alien. In the internment camps he taught other internees how to stay healthy by doing the exercises and applying the concepts he had developed. (This was the birth of “Pilates matwork”).
He later became a caretaker for wounded soldiers and others bedridden by war and disease. In order to get them moving again, Pilates rigged bed springs to their head and foot boards to give them necessary resistance and assistance, enabling their otherwise bedridden bodies. That was the birth of the present day apparatus, the “Reformer” and the “Cadillac."
After the war, Joseph immigrated to the United States where he met and married his wife Clara. Together, they opened the first Pilates studio in Manhattan, NY which is still flourishing today.
The method of Pilates has endured its own struggles.
There are a little over a handful of instructors who were fortunate enough to train with Joe Pilates. Scattered across the globe are those who were fortunate enough to train with such first generation Pilates instructors as Kathy Grant, Romana Kryzanowska, Carola Trier, Eve Gentry, Bruce King and Ron Fletcher. Many incredible instructors have put their own mark on the Pilates method presenting an array of different Pilates certifications taught by many latter generations. Some of these certifications are grueling and intense and others are completed within days. Only until recently have many of today’s Pilates leaders come together to form a standardized test that could officially qualify all Pilates instructors.
There was also a struggle that took Pilates to the US Courts. A trademark lawsuit threatened the entire community of Pilates instructors, manufacturers and studios. Rightfully so, victory prevailed deeming Pilates generic as any other form of fitness like yoga or karate.
There is also an ongoing divide between the “Purist” who teaches the exercises exactly as they were developed over 70 year ago (AKA "Classical"), and those who teach Pilates with modifications and more functional postural alignment based on scientific research, and the physical abilities and limitations of the clients. Though Kimberly Spencer teaches the latter, she greatly values, appreciates, enjoys, and sometimes utilizes the "Classical" training of Pilates.
Today and the future.
“To define, maintain, and support the commitment to training and education of Pilates instructors, the Pilates Method Alliance® (PMA) was formed in 2000 as the international professional organization for the Pilates method of exercise.”¹ The PMA strives to protect and enhance the Pilates method so that the Pilates taught today will continue to provide proper instruction returning balance to the body, mind, and soul.
Pilates improves your health and well being whether it be as an exercise class to keep you active, in physical therapy to rehabilitate an injury and/or faulty body alignment, or the meditative activity that keeps you connected and less stressed.