Joseph Hubertus Pilates (1880 – 1967) was born in Mönchengladbach, a small town near Dusseldorf, Germany. His name had been spelled “Pilatu” and was of Greek derivation but was changed to Pilates (pronounced Puh-lah-tes). He was a small and sickly child who suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. He watched wistfully as other children played outside, running and laughing and yearned for a healthy, strong, physically attractive body like his fathers.
His father was a prize-winning gymnast and his mother a Naturopath. There had to be a way to overcome his weaknesses, thought Pilates. The more he thought, the more determined he grew. Necessity is the “father” of invention and knows no law except to overcome. After surviving diseases fatal to thousands each year he began his life long quest to find a way to overcome his frailness and get strong and healthy so he could be like his dad.
A family physician gave him a discarded anatomy book and as he put it “I learned every page, every part of the body; “I would move each part as I memorized it”. “As a child, I would lie in the woods for hours, hiding and watching the animals move, how the mother taught the young.” he said. He studied both Eastern and Western forms of exercise including yoga.
Not yet a teen, Pilates began researching many types of exercise to aid in his strength-training program. He sent for books and haunted the university libraries in Düsseldorf. By the time he was 14 he had worked so hard he had developed his body to the point that he was modeling for anatomy charts.
At home, Pilates tried each exercise he read about. He kept records of the effect of each movement to chart his progress. He studied yoga, Zen meditation and several ancient
Greek and Roman Olympic exercise regimens. He studied anatomy, hoping to find a way to combine these disciplines to improve his health. He took copious notes.
He believed in the Roman motto “Mens sana in corpore sano,” or, “A sound mind in a sound body.” a philosophy that is the keystone of the Pilates Method.
His used his this knowledge to overcome his body’s physical limitations. In his late teens Joe evolved into an accomplished skin diver, gymnast, skier and all around great athletes. Reveling in his strength, and overcoming his frailness he sought a career that was in-line with his passion.
That determination to overcome spurred Pilates (1880-1967) to devise a movement therapy that has helped millions people achieve better heath an happiness. Known as the Pilates Method, the series of more than 500 revolutionary and evolutionary exercises is the fusion of ancient Greek, Roman and Eastern disciplines with the Wests scientific understanding of anatomy and physiology.
This hybrid approach to fitness pioneered by sickly child merged the best teachings of both worlds into a method that is at the for fount of a Mind Body Movement that, today, is turning the fitness world in-side out and revolutionizing the way fitness is taught.
p>Philip Friedman and Gail Eisen, two students of Romana Kryzanowska, published the first modern book on Pilates, The Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning, in 1980 and in it they outlined six “principles of Pilates”. These have been widely adopted—and adapted—by the wider community. The original six principles were concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.
Romana Kryzanowska and Sari Meija Santo
Romana Kryzanowska (June 30, 1923 – August 30, 2013) was an American Pilatesinstructor who started as a student of Joseph Pilates and his wife Clara at their studio on Eighth Avenue in New York. After the death of Joseph Pilates in 1968, Clara Pilates continued the studio for a few more years, and in 1970 Romana Kryzanowska became the director of what was by that time called “The Pilates Studio.”
Romana Kryzanowska was born in Farmington, Michigan on June 30, 1923. She was the only child of Roman Kryzanowsky and Sari Pickett Kryzanowsky. Her father, Roman was an accomplished artist in Detroit, in the 1920s. Some of his artwork is in storage at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Her mother, Sari went on to continue painting and displaying her own artwork after Roman died in 1929.
Romana studied ballet as a child. At age 17, while studying at Georg Balnchines School of American Ballett, she suffered an ankle injury, and was taken by Balanchine to Joseph Pilates to see if exercise rather than an operation would resolve the problem. The exercises were a success, and she continued to study with Pilates. “Before I knew it”, she said, “I was named a helper, which meant I didn’t have to pay anymore.”
On July 11, 1944 she married Pablo Mejia at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The couple moved to Peru, where she danced and taught the Pilates technique. Her two children, Paul and Sari, were born in Peru. Returning to the US in 1958, she began working again with Joseph and Clara Pilates at their studio in New York City. She also taught ballet.
Romana and her daughter continued to operate Joseph Pilates’ original studio. Pilates Master teacher Jay Grimes believes that nobody knows Joseph Pilates’ work better than Kryzanowska.