Joseph Pilates was born in the German town of Düsseldorf in 1810. As a child he suffered from asthma and rickets. Despite this, he refused to let his physical problems trouble him. He began therefore to study the various forms of physical education and muscular strengthening choosing those elements which interested him most. From these he developed his own personal method of exercise which he called “Contrology”. His aim was a holistic approach to well being. His philosophy was that regularly practicing his exercises would not only optimise physical health but also tone the physique and sharpen the mind.

After working with other pioneers of physical exercise and then with dancers, athletes and gymnasts he finally changed the name Contrology to Pilates, or the Pilates Method.

The seven basic principles of Pilates are as follows:

Breathing – breathe in deeply through the nose and feel the incoming air, expand the ribcage right around to the back. Breathe out through the mouth, at the same time contracting the ribcage

Centralising – each of the movements has its source in a central “core” situated between the base of the rib cage and the line of the hips. In this zone, some of the back muscles (multifidus) and abdominal muscles (transverse abdominus and rectus abdominus) form a belt, or girdle of strength and stability.

Control and concentration – when doing the moves, it’s essential to concentrate on what the rest of the body is doing and calm the mind.

Precision – Pilates said that to get the most out of his method, the instructions should be clearly followed.

Relaxation and alignment – before each practice, there should be a warm up or a few minutes of relaxation.

Flowing movements – for a movement to flow, all the muscles required for it need to work together.

Visualisation – many images are used in Pilates.

Some of the basics of the original Contrology method