History and Origins of Pilates

Pilates Origins | Mhealth

The origins of Pilates was developed in the early 20th century, Pilates has become a major part of today’s mainstream fitness and there certainly is a fascinating story behind it.

As in the name, Pilates was developed by German-born emigrant Joseph Pilates who during the First World War wanted to improve the rehabilitation programme for victims. Injured soldiers practised Pilates to recover their health through strengthening, stretching and stabilising major muscles.

Joseph Pilates favoured movements that were simple, precise and focused on control and technique over those with increased repetition. As he found influence in combining both Western and Eastern ideas about health, he strongly believed that both mental and physical well being were both crucial to each other.

From Western workout regimes such as classical Roman and Greek practices, body-building and gymnastics to Eastern disciplines of yoga, tai chi, martial arts and Zen meditation, Pilates dedicated himself to creating a new approach to exercise and body-conditioning that would be world changing.

The Development of Pilates during World War I

During World War I, Joseph Pilates was taken as an intern by the British to work as a Nurse. This gave him the opportunity to get creative and experiment. Pilates is famous for his experimentation using springs which he attached to hospital beds to get bed-ridden patients to start toning their muscles. This became the origin of the first Pilates machine, known today as the Pilates reformer.

Mr Pilates collaborated with pioneers such as Rudolph Laban who specialised in movement techniques. In fact, it was Laban who designed the basic system of dance notation which is currently still used today.


Origins of Pilates | Mhealth

‘Pilates’ Moved to America

In 1923, both Pilates and his newly founded approach to health and wellbeing moved to America where his first studio opened up in New York.  The Pilates method became popular almost instantly. Prominent dancers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine and others became enthusiasts, as they found Pilates to be the most effective way to recover from injuries and also prevent any in the future from recurring.

Slowly but surely, many became aware of the numerous miracles of Pilates. Pilates increasingly, therefore, began to be taken up by an ever-expanding audience that even crossed borders and seas.

Pilates initially called his method ‘Contrology’ but later changed it to become his own surname. The new technique was to be defined as both the mental and physical conditioning of individuals who work their bodies to reach their full potential. “It is the mind itself which builds the body”, a quote by Schiller which Pilates often liked to quote when explaining Contrology.

Pilates Returns to Britain

It was not until 1970 that the Pilates method returned to Britain. This is largely owed to Alan Herdman, teacher and dancer at the London School of Contemporary Dance who was trained by Pilates himself. Herdman was asked by his school to investigate the methods of Joseph Pilates. There on, Britain’s first Pilates studio was established at The Place in London in the same year.

What are the Benefits of Pilates

There is an endless list of benefits that Pilates is known for. Broadly speaking, practising Pilates can give you a strong and lean overall muscle tone that does not bulk. This is achieved through a series of movements and exercises that are focused on strengthening and lengthening the muscles.

Pilates also contributes to the overall slimming, enhanced flexibility, increased mobility of the body and this can be attained in just a short space of time.

From postural correction to inner strengthened and a heightened sense of body awareness,

Pilates is also about mental health and it works as a fantastic stress reliever. The stress relief benefits differ from the ‘ohm’ meditation style that you would typically envisage. Rather Pilates helps forms a connection between the mind and body that is uniquely revitalising, giving the entire body and energized boost.

You are sure to leave your session with a clearer, more focused mindset and a sense of control that can bring your body strength and balance.

Why Choose Mhealth?

Are you interested in joining a Pilates programme?Choose Mhealth today! With over 15 years of expertise, Mhealth has been providing Melbourne’s leading Pilates classes.  

Mhealth has an experienced group of friendly and knowledgeable instructors that can help you start your journey to a better and more healthy you. Our Pilates programmes are dedicated to healing, rehabilitating and strengthening your mind, body and soul so you can unlock your fullest potential.

Pilates isn’t just a physical fitness system. As building core body strength, flexibility and control,  it also helps to develop inner mental wellbeing and health.