By Chris Valuck

reformerThe Wellness Center has a new piece of exercise equipment, The Pilates Reformer.   Located in the group fitness room, you cannot ignore its ominous presence.  It has been met with curiosity and hesitation by residents who have never seen a Reformer,  but greeted with a gush of excitement by residents that up until now had to go off campus to receive private instruction on the Reformer.  Now, not only can we offer an opportunity for residents to have their instructor come to them, but residents who participate in a group  Mat Pilates Class at the YMCA and HealthFit, can look forward to a similar class coming soon to the Wellness Center. The Mat Pilates Class consists of a series of floor exercises that were the precursor to the Reformer.  The Pilates Method has an interesting history that I thought I would share.

Joseph Pilates was born in 1883 in Germany.  Although growing up with athletic, health-centered parents (his Greek father was a gymnast and his mother a naturopath) he was a very sickly child, suffering from many illnesses.  With early poor health being the impetus, he devoted his life to the pursuit of a strong, healthy body through physical fitness.  He grew to become quite an athlete, participating in several sports such as gymnastics, skiing, and body-building.

Joseph Pilates, 1883-1967 At the age of 29, Pilates moved to England and earned a living as a boxer, circus performer, and self-defense trainer for police schools and Scotland Yard.  Nevertheless, he was interned during WWI with other German citizens and while confined he taught wrestling and self-defense to fellow inmates.  It was here that he began developing a fitness program with minimal equipment.  Basically, a series of floor exercises that evolved into a whole system of exercises that he called “Contrology.”  He trained his fellow inmates and even incorporated yoga into their routines.  It has been said that inmates who trained with Pilates survived the 1918 flu pandemic due to their good physical health.

After WWI. Pilates returned to Germany and collaborated with experts in dance and physical exercise.  When pressured to train members of the German army, he left his native country, and emigrated to the United States in 1925.  On the ship he met his future wife, Clara.  They opened a studio in New York City and directly taught their students into the 1960’s promoting “Contrology,” which is the use of the mind to focus and control core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine. Clara and Pilates developed a loyal following within the dance and performing arts community in New York.  Their devotees included George Balanchine and Martha Graham, who regularly sent their students to Pilates for training and rehabilitation.  After Pilates became known for training ballerinas for flexibility, strength, and stamina, society women flocked to his studio on 8th Ave.  To this day, around the world, dancers and people from all walks of life continue to practice Joseph Pilates’ methods to control the movement of their bodies by creating flow through the use of appropriate transitions, building strength and stamina.

Joseph Pilates has written several books, including Return to Life Through Contrology, and as an inventor has 26 patents cited.  The content of this article was taken from the following sources: www.joseph-pilates.info/history-of-pilates.html, www.pilates.about.com/od/historyofpilates/a/jpilates.htm,www.wikipedia.org/wiki/joseph_Pilates                         –