Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880 and he died in New York City in 1967 at the
age of 87. Much has been written about him, including his time during World War 1 where, as a German national, he was interned
in England and became a nurse. He developed exercise apparatus for immobilised servicemen by attaching springs to hospital
beds. Even now, the machines used in Pilates studios are centred around spring and pulley systems. Over a period of some twenty
five years, he developed a body conditioning system which has become known as the Pilates Method.
Let's make no bones about it, Joseph Pilates had an evangelical approach to his philosophy
of mind and body. He was totally committed to what he believed was the right system of physical and mental training. He developed
a regime which he termed "contrology", the complete co-ordination of body, mind and spirit. Acquiring control over your body
through his system of exercises would provide suppleness, muscular power, with corresponding endurance, good posture and alleviation
of body strain.
In terms of balance of body and mind, he focused on the conscious control of all
muscular movements of the body. He focused on body mechanics and applying proper leverage principles having regard to the
skeletal framework of the body and muscle systems. General health, he maintained, centres around body posture, mechanics,
correct breathing, spinal flexibility and appropriate physical exercise.
Joseph combined eastern and western forms
of exercise including yoga, Zen, Greek and Roman wrestling. By the time he was 14, he was posing for anatomical charts and
he also became proficient in body building, diving, skiing and gymnastics!
Well, whatever one might think of the philosophy underlying the Pilates Method, the vindication
of his early 20th century preachings is in the continuing growth in the popularity of his method of exercise in the 21st century.
You only have to read the papers and health magazines to know that Pilates is developing in popularity in many countries.
Its practitioners testify to its benefits. As the authors of the introduction to the millennium edition of the original 1945
publication by Pilates and Miller regarding the Pilates Method contend, Joseph Pilates created a "truly effective" method
of controlling and strengthening muscles, achieving posture correction and stretching and suppleness and the beauty of it
is that it is effective for virtually everyone.
It is difficult to fault the underlying merits of Pilates' philosophy
and its application to achieve balance of body and mind. The desire for such balance, and how it is achieved, is a matter
for the individual.
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