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Pilates, the unique exercise technique once enjoyed only by celebrities and the elite, became a mainstream fitness program in the last decade. Although many view the low-impact exercise as a modern-day phenomenon, the history of Pilates actually dates back to the turn of the previous century.

Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born to a naturopath mother and gymnast father in 1883. As a child growing up in Monchengladbach, Germany, the future fitness guru was plagued with asthma, rheumatic fever and rickets. His frail condition also made him a target of teasing by larger children.

Encouraged by his parents, he turned to exercise to improve his health and strength. Joseph studied different types of exercise and became particularly attracted to the Greek philosophical belief that man must be balanced in body, mind and spirit. He also studied anatomy and became involved in bodybuilding, gymnastics, martial arts, wrestling and yoga. By age 14, Pilates boasted an Adonis-like physique. 

Career as Fitness Instructor Begins

Joseph Pilates ventured to England in 1912 and served as a self-defense instructor at Scotland Yard. However, with the onset of the First World War, he was detained as an enemy of the country. While in prison, he refined his exercise methods and shared his techniques with other German nationals. Pilates equipped hospital beds with springs in order for the bedridden to engage in resistance training. This became the basis for the Reformer machine that plays an important role in Pilates exercise programs to this day. A flu epidemic plagued the country six years later and claimed thousands of lives. However, the fitness coach and his students survived. 

Pilates emigrated to the United States in 1926. On the voyage, he met Clara Zeuner, who would become his third wife. Upon arriving stateside, the couple opened an exercise studio. By the 1960s, he was instructing dancers, and his method of training was soon adopted by dance studios across the country. It was at this time that his unique program of exercises became known as Pilates. 

Techniques Duplicated 

The couple's studios began opening their own fitness centers, copying Joseph's techniques. Joseph and Clara continued providing instruction until he died in 1967 at the age of 87. But the history of Pilates exercise did not cease with Joseph's death. Clara continued the studio operations until around 1970, when Romana Kryzanowska became the facility director. 

During this decade, Hollywood celebrities became acquainted with the program, and a decade later, the media introduced the fitness technique to the rest of the country. Celebrity endorsements soon popularized the fitness method. Today, the technique is used to train professional and Olympic athletes, is the featured exercise program at many health facilities, and has enabled millions of individuals to achieve and maintain health characterized by a balance of body, mind and spirit. 

The structured technique of Pilates involves precise movements combined with specialized breathing techniques. Overall, the regimen is designed to strengthen core muscles in the abdomen and pelvis in addition to improving flexibility. 

The PBX Method offered by PBX Pilates Barre Extreme in Raleigh, NC, combines modern Pilates with yoga, barre and weight training to provide a perfectly balanced exercise program to strengthen, lengthen and tone the whole body. Every client receives personalized attention and works on their own Pilates reformer machine and barre station. No matter what your current fitness level, we can help you achieve superior muscular development, a stronger core, greater flexibility, improved spinal and pelvic alignment and enhanced cardiovascular health. Visit us online or call 919-435-4229 to learn more.

Primary source: The Pilates Foundation