Joseph H. Pilates was born in 1883 in, Germany. His father was a prize-winning gymnast of Greek ancestry, and his mother worked as a naturopath.
Pilates was a sickly child and suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, and he dedicated his entire life to improving his physical strength. Besides skiing frequently, he began studying bodybuilding, yoga, “kung fu” and gymnastics. By the age of 14, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. Pilates came to believe that the “modern” life-style, bad posture and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. He ultimately devised a series of exercises and training-techniques and engineered all the equipment, specifications, and tuning required to teach his methods properly.
Pilates was originally a gymnast, diver, and bodybuilder, but when he moved to England in 1912, he earned a living as a professional boxer, circus performer, and self defense trainer at police schools and Scottland Yard. However it was during World War 1 that he began refining and teaching his minimal equipment system of mat exercises that later became “Contrology”.
He then became a nurse, which is when he designed his first exercise equipment prototype. To help immobilized patients, Joseph attached springs to hospital beds and developed a series of strengthening exercises, which over the course of his life would expand to over 500 exercises
His method related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles. It focuses attention on core postural muscles that help keep the human body balanced and provide support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine, and strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles.
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