Lynne-Marie Partington BA, MSc, PhD Pilates & Functional Movement For Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention
Inverness & Great Glen region

A brief history of Pilates

Joseph Pilates originally called his exercise technique “Contrology”, and this evolved over the years through his work during World War 1 with injured soldiers at internment camps in the UK, and after the war with police officers, professional dancers and fitness enthusiasts, both in the UK and Germany. Around 1925 he left Germany, moved to New York, and with his wife Clara started their own studio. Although Joseph and Clara worked mostly with injured professional dancers, Pilates believed that his system was beneficial as a general exercise system for all (and, of course, it is!).

A brief history of Pilates . PilatesSideExercise

Besides working with clients, Joseph and Clara also taught others to carry on their exercise system. In the late 1960s, UK dancer and teacher Alan Herdman travelled to the USA to receive training from Carola Trier and Bob Fitzgerald, two instructors who Pilates had personally trained. In 1970 Alan returned to the UK to open Britain’s first ever London Pilates studio, where he firstly worked with actors, dancers and singers, and shortly found himself receiving many referrals from medical professionals requesting him to work with their patients with chronic injuries. Besides working with clients over the decades since, Alan has spread his training worldwide and has authored a number of books. Not surprisingly, Alan Herdman’s training and certification of Pilates teachers is now one of the top trainings available throughout the world.

Besides the mat exercises that Joseph Pilates devised, he also invented many different types of apparatus (the term which he used to describe his exercise machines). Working with bedridden WW1 soldiers in the internment camps, Pilates attached springs to the bedposts which enabled the soldiers to stretch and strengthen their muscles, whilst keeping their bodies in alignment, free from further injury, and at the same time helping them to develop core strength. The use of interchangeable springs, of various lengths and gauge, was later developed into his apparatus, particularly his Universal Reformer and Cadillac. As Pilates continued developing his exercise system, he developed more and more different types of apparatus.

As Joseph Pilates' students finished their training in New York, they gradually moved on and opened their own studios. Although their style of Pilates might, at first, seem different, more modernized, when compared to the original Contrology, their systems have retained the true essence of Joseph Pilates' principles.

Being able to trace the lineage of my Pilates training back to Joseph Pilates was very important to me, because it ensured the world-wide acknowledgement and validity of my Pilates training and qualification. Therefore, I enrolled in Pilates training from Karen Pearce, who was trained by Alan Herdman (who was, in turn, trained by two of Joseph Pilates students in New York) and Sarah Sessa, who was trained by Karen. Both Karen and Sara were assessed and certified personally by Alan, and, after my completion of Karen and Sara's training, I was also then assessed and certified in person by Alan Herdman. My graduation photo, below, shows me receiving my diploma from Alan following the formal certification assessment.

A brief history of Pilates . Graduation with Alan Herdman

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