Joseph Humbertus Pilates was a man who believed completely in his method and practised what he prescribed to others well into his eighties. Even as an older man he was quite robust and vital until his death, at the age of 87. He was born in Germany and went to England in 1912, where he worked as a boxer, circus performer and self-defence instructor for detectives at Scotland Yard.
At the outbreak of World War I, Joe was interned as an "enemy alien" with other German nationals, where he started to develop the Method, he called it "Contrology".
After his release, Joe returned to Germany. His exercise method gained favour in the dance community, primarily through Rudolf von Laban, who created the form of dance notation most widely used today.
When German officials asked Joe to teach his fitness system to the army, he decided to leave Germany for good and left for the United States settling in New York. Pilates created what is believed to be a method of total body conditioning that emphasizes proper alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing and flowing movement (The Pilates Principles) that results in increased flexibility, strength, muscle tone, body awareness, energy, and improved mental concentration.
For decades, Pilates continued to dedicate his life to training others in his method, developing and polishing exercises, routines, making new apparatus and modifying existing ones.
"I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They'd be happier."
He took clients with different and new problems as a challenge, and new exercises, adaptations and equipment modifications appeared.
The “Elders,” as the first instructors of his method are commonly called today, transplanted all over the world after studying with Joseph. They each carried with them their own different experiences and interpretations of Joseph Pilates’ method, as he did not always teach the same exercise in the same manner each time, taking into account different bodies.
This naturally has produced various styles of Pilates. The elders include: Eve Gentry, Carola Trier, Romana Kyrzanowska, Mary Bowen, Bruce King, Lolita San Miguel, Ron Fletcher and Kathy Grant.
Kirstin has herself had the pleasure of learning from Mary Bowen, Lolita San Miguel, Ron Fletcher and Kathy Grant.
Pilates & Pregnancy
Pilates is a gentle low impact form of exercise and as such it is considered one of the best forms of exercise for a pregnant woman, but you should check with your GP first. Pilates will not place strain on the joints or back. In fact the back will be strengthened as will the stomach and muscles around the pelvic area – allowing for an easier pregnancy, delivery and recovery.
The improvement in muscle tone and circulation gained through practising Pilates will also be of value during labour. An improved circulation allows an increased oxygen supply to the womb and this is less distressing for the baby. And of course the breathing techniques used in Pilates can help with the control of breathing during childbirth.
Please consult your GP or midwife for information on what will be appropriate for you during your pregnancy.
This general information should not be substituted for the advice of a doctor and the guidance of a qualified Pilates teacher.
No two woman’s bodies are the same, and this is especially true during pregnancy. There are workouts that are quite appropriate for some people during pregnancy and not for others.
During a normal, healthy pregnancy, moderate exercise is safe for the foetus. Exercise is also said to prevent varicose veins, haemorrhoids and lower back pain and helps to boost self esteem, maintain fitness levels and prepare the body for the physical demands of motherhood. Workouts and schedules during the first trimester may have to be adjusted around fatigue levels.
Over the course of the pregnancy the demand on the abdominal muscles should be decreased. During the second trimester, these muscles become stretched out, and with reduced abdominal support, there is a greater risk of injuring the lower back. Further, due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, the ligaments surrounding the joints become lax, so you should be careful not to overstretch.
It is important to continue strengthening and re-balancing the muscles around the joints – supporting the body as it goes through postural changes related to pregnancy.
Today, many guidelines for pregnancy indicate that after approximately the 16th week, the supine position (lying on your back) should be avoided as the maternal blood supply and subsequently the foetal blood supply may be affected.