What Is Pilates?

The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is a system of exercises that focus on the “Powerhouse.”  These deep postural muscles of the body—mainly the abdominal, buttocks, hips and inner thighs—strengthen and lengthen the body.

While strengthening the core stability muscles, Pilates works towards re-aligning the spine to its optimum position.  Focusing on this proper form and alignment while strengthening the core stability muscles through movement is what Pilates is all about.  You must connect your mind to your body in order to execute the movement properly.

The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is, in many respects, very different from your typical gym workout. The exercise program utilises of a system of over 500 exercises using specialised equipment created by Joseph Pilates, along with the seven key principles of Centering, Control, Concentration, Coordination, Breath, Flow, and Precision.


Benefits of Pilates:

  • Strengthens and tones all muscles.

  • Improves posture.

  • Provides flexibility and balance.

  • Increases circulation and endurance.

  • Creates a more streamlined shape.

  • Unites the body and mind.

  • Develops muscles uniformly.

  • Heals damaged tissue.

  • Allows everyone to exercise, regardless of age or fitness level.

The Origins of Pilates

Joseph H. Pilates (“puh-LAH-teez”) was born in small city near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880.  As a child he dealt with chronic illnesses such as rickets, severe asthma, and rheumatic fever, which lead him to study physical fitness and health.  He started studying human anatomy and the movement of animals at a young age. In addition, he also studied many different Eastern forms of exercise, such as yoga and Tai Chi.

At the age of fourteen, he was modelling for anatomy charts.  He was a skier, diver, gymnast, and boxer, who studied yoga and circus training. He found work in England with his brother as a circus performer; they had a Greek statue act.

In the first part World War I, where he was interned at various camps with injured soldiers, he began developing an exercise system that he later named “Contrology,” rooted in western and eastern medicine, yoga, ancient Greek philosophies, karate, anatomy, mathematics, and engineering.

When an outbreak of influenza swept through the camps, people who trained with Pilates were not infected with the influenza.  During the later part of the war, he served as an orderly in a hospital where he developed his unique equipment to help rehabilitate wounded soldiers.  He attached springs to the back of patients’ hospital beds to help rehabilitate their arms and legs.

While traveling to The United States, he met Clara who would later become his second wife.  In 1926 they introduced his method to New York and opened up a studio on Eighth Avenue.

He originally worked with mostly men, especially boxers.  Their studio was in the same building as many dance studios and rehearsal spaces.


In the late 1930’s George Balanchine and Martha Graham both sent their dancers to “Uncle Joe,” and ever since then, Pilates has gained popularity within the dance community.  Joe and Clara also spent many summers at Jacob’s Pillow, a very well know summer dance camp in the Berkshire Mountains USA.

Over his lifetime he developed a unique scientific system of body conditioning that transformed the health and bodies of those who practiced his method. The basis of his work is a series of exercises performed on a mat. The mat work emphasizes quality and precision rather than quantity of repetitions. Each exercise, performed in sequence, is designed not only to strengthen and stretch but to integrate your body's muscles so that correct form and posture become a part of your daily activities throughout life. The mat work teaches us that the most important tool to achieve physical fitness is the body itself.

Joseph H. Pilates passed away in October 1967 at the age of eighty-seven years old.  His wife Clara continued to teach and run the studio for 10 more years until her passing in 1977. Many of his certified pupils continued his work after his dead and spread his work around the world.

These pupils are called the first generation of Pilates teachers. And the ones thought by them are very considered amount the teachers. The owner of Pilates Vita, Patrícia A. Robinson, is grateful to have been trained by two of his fist generation teachers, Ron Fletcher and Lolita San Miguel.