In the early 1990s I heard about Pilates. In the mid 1990s I got a computer and googled the word Pilates. I think I came up with about 2 articles! In the later 1990s I found a mentor on that same computer. In a health and fitness chat room, I was fortunate to “meet up” with Gil Roberts, from One on One Pilates in Fresno, California. He was kind enough (thank you again, Gil) to share some of his books and video tapes, and I began a journey that would change my entire life. Thanks to the wonderful instruction by Elizabeth Larkam, I was able to begin to learn the basics of Pilates mat-work. I then took some courses at Polestar Pilates and began teaching mat classes at both the Quadrangle (thanks, Dean for seeing the need for this so early on and trusting me with your members) in Coral Springs and later at Tamarac Fitness Center, in Tamarac, where I still teach a fusion of Pilates and yoga on Tuesday nights.
If I were to be writing this blog back in the late 90s or even the early to mid “turn of the century,” I would have given A LOT more attention to Pilates. The weird thing is, I love it every bit as much as I did then, I just sort of take it for granted! It has become a part of who I am and all I teach. This morning, however, I would like to take a giant step back and spend a little time on the back story and basics of this incredible discipline.
Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1883. He was a sickly child, suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, but went on to dedicate his life to improving his physical strength. Studying yoga, body-building, gymnastics and diving, he moved to England in 1912 and worked as a boxer, a circus performer and a self-defense trainer before ending up in the military during World War 1. It was here that he developed his integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, and of course, sharing it with the other soldiers. This system, called Contrology, was designed after watching animals move in nature. The story is told that his troops avoided the great flu pandemic of 1918 because of the great shape these men were in.
After the army, and disappointed with the political climate in his country, he immigrated to the United States (around 1925) and it was on that boat that he traveled on that he met his wife, Clara. Together, they founded a studio in NYC and it was there that he taught Contrology for the next 40 something years. They had a devout following of well known dancers including Martha Graham and George Balanchine. He also wrote several books including Return to Life Through Contrology and Your Health. I happen to have them both and written a lifetime ago, this man was clearly way ahead of his time.
Before he passed away, in 1967 at the age of 84, he had directly trained a handful of “disciples” which we, in the Pilates community, refer to as “the elders.” They are: Romana Kryzanowska, Eve Gentry, Ron Fletcher, Corola Trier, Mary Bowen, Lolita San Miguel and Kathy Grant. I was thrilled to have the honor of participating in a workshop where Lolita San Miguel was also and attendant. She was lovely and beautiful and very humble.
It was Joseph himself who said “Physical Fitness is the first requisite of happiness, ” and he was certainly right about that. Practicing Pilates is good for every fiber of our being. It is a system of stretching and strengthening exercises that tone muscles, improve posture, provide flexibility and balance, improves breathing, creates a more streamlined shape and more important than all else, unites the body and mind.
I’ll be focusing on the Pilates part of our fusion class tonight. Getting back to some basics will be the theme of class. If you have not attended one yet, come on out and try it!
I’ll be back later in the week with the 6 Principles that Contrology/Pilates was based on. Tomorrow we will, of course, focus on tonight’s episode of Biggest Loser. Until then, have a great day filled with peaceandfitness. Much love…