Joseph Pilates, who devised the ‘Pilates’ method did not call his system of physical fitness ‘Pilates’. In his original 1934 book ‘Your Health’ Joseph Pilates described his method of achieving ‘Health & Happiness’ as ‘Contrology’. It wasn’t until much later that people started referring to it a ‘Pilates’.
The Study of Control
In his second book ‘Return to life through Contrology’ 1945 Joseph Pilates himself described Contrology as follows:
“Contrology is the complete coordination of boy mind, and spirit.”
“Through Contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercise you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all our subconscious activities”
The Early Years – due to his own ill health from ailments such as, rheumatic fever, rickets and asthma he began a journey at an early age to take charge of his own well being. As a young boy, Joseph worked for a doctor in return for access to his vast library so that he could study anatomy and physiology. A family physician gave him discarded anatomy book.
“I learned every page, every part of the body: I would move each part as I memorised it. As a child, I would lie in the woods for hours, hiding and watching the animals move, how the mother taught the young.”
In 1914 after WW1 broke out he was interned along with other German nationals in a “camp’” for enemy aliens in Lancaster. It was here that he began refining and teaching his minimal equipment system of mat exercises that later became “Contrology”. Bed rest was the norm in those days, so he was told ‘you can do anything you like with them, as long as they stay in bed. So Joseph took the bed springs from the beds and rigged them up to the bed posts as exercise apparatus for the bedridden. Thus was born the Trapezium table (‘Trap Table”)
In April 1926 Joseph travelled to New York (a second trip) where he met and settled with his long term partner Clara, they took over a boxing gym and he converted it into his Pilates Studio.
Joseph Pilates died at the age of 82 in 1967, during his lifetime he trained 8 apprentices around the world, that have continued on in his work, some injecting their own interpretations of his work. These apprentices are known as First Generation teachers.