Joseph Pilates

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.

Pure Pilates Ilkley FAQ

Article written by a 1962 client of Joseph Pilates
Pilates Today (PMA and Alan Herdman)
Pilates Training and Certification Organisations

Strength & Flexibility

Conventional workouts tend to build short, bulky muscles, the type most prone to injury.  Pilates elongates and strengthens, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility.  A body with balanced strength and flexibility is less likely to be injured.

Improved Coordinatiion

Pilates is a full body integration, learning to co-ordinate breath and movement with physicality and release of muscle groups.  Aside from the wonderful physical effects it has on the body, Pilates also enhances the mind and spirit. It increases an understanding of your own body and how it works, while at the same time, creating a wonderful air of confidence when you know you look good, feel good, walk taller.

Improved Posture

Pilates exercises train several muscle groups at once in smooth, continuous movements.  By developing technique, you can actually re-train your body to move in safer, more efficient patterns of motion – invaluable for injury recovery, sports performance, good posture and optimal health.  The key is precision and flowing movement.

General Fitness & Weight Management

Pilates will improve how you move and respond to movement.  By following the principles of Pilates of precision, breath, concentration, co-ordination and centering, you create a strong sleek body that has the strength and stability of a dancer.

Improved Bone Density

In Pilates both the concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) contractions of the muscles are worked, creating the long, lean musculature of a dancer, rather than the shorter, bulkier muscles of a weight-lifter.  Recent studies have shown that emphasizing the eccentric contractions when exercising, results in a significantly greater increase in bone density over concentric contractions alone.

Chronic Pain Management

At Pure we work with you and your medical professionals to help improve your pain and issues.

Gentle on the Joints

Pilates is a low impact movement method which is why it has such good results with those suffering from Arthritis and Osteoporosis along with many other joint conditions.  The variety of possible exercises and the ability to adapt them to the individual’s physicality does mean that most conditions can be helped in some way.

Rehabilitation after Surgery, Injury or Illness

Pilates is fantastic for injury prevention and rehabilitation, because it works on core stability, posture, flexibility, correcting muscle imbalances and weaknesses, and specific strength. In conventional workouts, weak muscles tend to get weaker and strong muscles tend to get stronger. The result is muscular imbalance – a primary cause of injury and chronic back pain. 

Pilates is beneficial for a wide range of problems, including: Back pain, Neck pain, Shoulder problems, Hip and knee pain, Arthritis, Rehabilitation from injuries, Rehabilitation from orthopaedic surgery, Neurological problems e.g. rehab from stroke or head injury, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease. 

At Pure, we have helped many clients rehabilitate following shoulder, hip, knee and spinal surgery.

 “Kirstin’s careful and professional approach is perfect for pregnant ladies or individuals with injuries. With regard to the latter my teenage son benefitted massively from this specific targeted approach to rehab, following an ACL replacement suffered playing rugby, culminating in his successful return to contact sport.”

 Julie Braham, Ilkley

Injury Prevention

In the workplace we often either sit in cars or at a desk and our general posture can be affected by the positions we take up, and in our leisure activities we tend to exercise only the muscles needed to perform specific tasks. In conventional gym workouts, weak muscles tend to get weaker and strong muscles tend to get stronger. The result is muscular imbalance. Pilates is fantastic for injury prevention and rehabilitation, because it works on core stability, posture, flexibility, correcting muscle imbalances and weaknesses, and specific strength.

Enhanced Sport / Athletic Performance

Many high level and recreational athletes use Pilates to enhance their performance, decrease the risk of injuries and provide much needed cross training of muscle groups. 

When you first book in for an assessment or a studio session, your instructor will look at the things you need to work on, and then design a programme specifically to address those needs.

So whether it is athletics, running, skiing, tennis, golf, football, rugby or cricket or any other form of leisure exercise, Pilates can help improve your performance with specific exercises for your activity and also to keep all the muscle groups balanced.

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.