You see, Joseph Pilates invented the machines and equipment to support people in building the strength and flexibility necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of performing the Advanced Mat work unassisted.
That’s right–the reformer was an intro to the more advanced work- mat work! The ultimate test in strength is pushing and pulling your own body weight around unassisted, which is exactly what we do on the mat.
So where exactly did mat Pilates come from?
Origin of Pilates
Classical Pilates as we know it today was invented by Joseph Pilates. Joseph grew up in Dusseldorf, Germany with a naturopath mother and a gymnast father. As a child, he suffered from rheumatic fever, rickets and asthma which saw him bullied by other children. As a result, he became very dedicated to fitness, yoga, bodybuilding and gymnastics.
At the outbreak of WWI, Joseph volunteered to be a hospital attendant at a camp in the Isle of Man. It was there that what we know as the modern day reformer and affiliate pilates equipment was spawned. He used bed springs to provide resistance to enable bed bound patients the ability to exercise.
Around the year 1925, Pilates migrated to New York where he set up his own Pilates studio with his wife Clara. In New York he refined his pilates methods and concepts and started bringing the whole focus to “contrology”, or ‘using the mind to control the muscles.’ He paid special attention to the core postural muscles that keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine. He also started teaching an awareness of breath in exercise and how to use the breath while in movement to keep the body stable and balanced. He taught well into the 1960’s and had a strong following consisting mostly of ballerinas and dancers.
Romana Kryzanowska, Joseph Pilates’ infamous protege, once said in an interview with Washington Post in 2003: “The apparatus are good, but the mat work is everything. If you can do the mat work perfectly, you don't need the apparatus. But people love toys.”
While we all love the Pilates apparatus with its endless versatility for challenge, in March we honor where it all started… on the mat.
Follow us on social media for March Matness, where we’ll post a video of a Pilates mat exercise every day for the entire month!