Joseph (Hubertus) Pilates (1880-1967)


Pilates inspired exercise rebalances the body, lengthens tight muscles and strengthens weak ones to regain balance. Long lean muscle mass is promoted in slow controlled movement patterns, focussing on thinking within movement. This regains stability and therefore makes the body more effective in movement.


Joseph (Hubertus) Pilates (1880-1967) was born in Dusseldorf in Germany and was a sickly child suffering from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. Regular exercise and development of gymnastics in the late nineteenth century was a way of maintaining his health, improving strength, stamina, endurance, flexibility and coordination and also placed controlled regular cardiovascular demands on him with coordinated breathing.

At the age of 14 Pilates had clearly defined muscles and later became a professional boxer. At the age of 32 he travelled to England and worked as a boxer, circus performer and instructor. At the outbreak of World War I he was interned in a camp but continued to work on his health and fitness allowing men in the camp to take part in conditioning programmes based on his series of matwork exercises.

After the war he applied his knowledge to help rehabilitate the war injured. He experimented with bed springs, attaching them to ends of beds so bed-bound patients could recover muscle tone and fitness. Other apparatus was also designed in this way and his work expanded his appartus developed, (Universal Reformer, Cadillac Ladder Barrel etc) and in turn his Matwork exercises.

In the 1920s his wife Clara, who was a nurse, worked with him developing a studio in USA, and called his method "Contrology". Further work Pilates undertook was with Rudolph van Laban who introduced him to the dance world and later he helped rehabilitate dancers with back and leg injuries back to performance. He also helped great dance choreographers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine.

It is important to remember the early style of Pilates exercise was about strength training and similar to boxing training and later evolved to a flowing style to that seen in modern dance. The Pilates method has evolved extensively through the years and today not only dancers and athletes use the method with modifications and variations but the public use it for rehabilitation.


CONCENTRATION - You must have full concentration on the exercise you are doing with concious awareness.

CONTROL - Control every aspect of your positioning, alignment, movement with appropriate tension.

CENTREING - Keeping the "naval to spine connection" and "pelvic floor", forming a band front to back, between the bottom rib and line across your hip bones. A good centre means a good balance.

FLOWING MOVEMENT - smooth and even flowing movements improve control.

PRECISION - Concentrate on correct movement patterns and quality of movement.

BREATHING - full and thorough inhalation and exhalation breathing patterns synchronised with the movement is the key to Pilates-inspired exercise.

ISOLATION - Identify weaker muscles and try to achieve body awareness and strength in these places, creating balance in the neuro-muscular-skeletal structure.

ROUTINE - regular practice will improve your alignment, health and lifestyle.


  • Stronger, healthier back
  • More toned, mobile and flexible body
  • Leaner, longer look
  • Flatter stomach
  • Better body shape
  • Better balance between strength and suppleness
  • Better posture
  • Elongated spine
  • Taller gait
  • Easier, fuller movement
  • Better co-ordination
  • Greater body awareness
  • Injury prevention and rehabilitation
  • Relief from stress
  • General fitness
  • Sense of calm and well-being

  • The middle-aged and elderly become more mobile
  • Those with sedentary lifestyles can improve posture
  • The pregnant and post-natal
  • Those needing pre- and post-operation strengthening
  • Those referred by their doctor, physio, osteopath, chiropractor or other medical practitioner

  • Back pain, back-ache and other back problems
  • Scoliosis/curvature of the spine
  • Poor posture and rounded shoulders
  • Migraine
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Stiffness, joint pains and muscle pains, whether caused by arthritis/osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia
  • Sports injuries
  • RSI
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Stress


Core stability, balance and flat abdominals are promoted due to all movement initiating from the controlled contraction of the deep abdominal muscles.

Our lifestyles seem to encourage sitting in many activities which overstretch certain muscles and tighten others. This then leads to neck, shoulder, back and knee injuries.

Pilates will help to regain balance through the body's muscular-skeletal structure, increase synovial production in the joints for improved mobility and control of the core muscles to rehabilitate, heal and improve overall wellbeing. The balance of the body and mind is the only route to good sustainable health.