The History & Evolution of Pilates

Maddie, our resident Pilates instructor, takes us through where Pilates came from and how that is has shaped the Pilates we know today.

The history & evolution of Pilates is an interesting one and has shaped the practice of modern-day Pilates. The practice of Pilates was developed throughout the early 1900’s, by a German National named Joseph Pilates. A former circus performer and boxer, Joseph Pilates soon found himself working as a medical assistant in a hospital in The Isle of Man, treating the injured soldiers of WW1. Thinking of alternative ways to rehabilitate the war veterans, Pilates began using bed springs to assist in the treatment of the patients he looked after. Have you heard of the ‘Cadillac’ apparatus? Well that is where it came from! By the early 1920’s, Pilates had made its way across the globe to New York, where Joseph Pilates and his wife Cara set up the very first Pilates studio in 1926. The first audience was predominantly dancers, using Pilates as a way of improving their technique, as well as a means recovering from injuries due to constant stress on the body.

Joseph Pilates based the practice on 6 main principles;

Principle 1: Centering – this is linked to the concept of the Pilates powerhouse that is the centre of the body.

Principle 2: Control – Joseph places great emphasis on the importance of controlling a movement deliberately, moving with purpose but also control that uses the mind. Again, this brings the body and mind together as one, enhancing mental and physical wellness.

Principle 3: Concentration – Pilates is renowned for being excellent for both mental and physical wellness. This in part can be attributed to the focus which is intensely on the movement of your body during a Pilates class.

Principle 4: Precision – Pilates requires exact, precise and sometimes very small movements. Minor corrections, small improvements and perfecting your execution can have untold benefits.

Principle 5: Breathing – all you have to do is think of Pilates and immediately inhale, exhale comes to mind so it is not surprising that the breath is one of the main founding principles. Joseph is quoted as saying “Breathing is the first act of life, and the last…above all learn how to breathe correctly.”

Principle 6: Flowing Movement – the ultimate goal. Encouraging the body to move freely , gracefully and with fluid motion through the most challenging movements is the epitome of Pilates.

The principles speak for themselves when considering and practicing the exercises and naturally, as with everything else, the exercises and principles have evolved over time. Nowadays, although his core method is still taught, adaptations have been made in accordance with the current day anatomical and biological changes of us as human beings – it is now said that over 12 million people worldwide practice Pilates on a regular basis.

I look forward to practicing Pilates with you in the live sessions with The Life Plan. If you have any questions please do get in touch!