The Pilates Story

Far more than a recent fitness craze, Pilates has been developed and practiced since the 1920's when Joseph and Clara Pilates opened their 'Body Conditioning Gym' in New York City.

Joseph Pilates was born near Düsseldorf, Germany in 1883, a frail child, suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. His drive and determination to overcome these ailments led him to become a competent gymnast, diver and skier.

In 1912 he lived in England working as a circus performer, boxer and self-defence instructor. During the First World War, he was interned with other German nationals. During this time, he further developed his physical fitness technique by teaching his fellow internees. Towards the end of the War he served as an orderly in a hospital on the Isle of Man where he worked with patients unable to walk. He attached bed springs to the hospital beds to help support the patients' limbs, leading to the development of his famous piece of equipment known as the 'Cadillac'. Much of his equipment, although slightly adapted, is still in use today in many Pilates Studios.


Joseph emigrated to the USA in the early 1920s with his wife Clara, and together they developed and taught the method in their 'body-conditioning gym' in New York in 1926. While Joe is the man behind the method, it was his wife Clara that became the real teacher in the studio and allowed the method to be passed on to apprentices. Clara established the tradition of evolving and adapting the Pilates method to suit the individual needs of clients. This is a tradition Pilates Foundation Teachers are proud to continue.

Highly popular, particularly with the dance community, it offers a chance to improve technique or recover from injury. Many celebrities of the day visited his studio including dance legends such as Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine and Martha Graham, as well as the actor Jose Ferrer and the author Christopher Isherwood. Originally 60% of the clientele were men.

During his lifetime, this method of exercise was called Contrology. It was only after his death that it became known as the Pilates Method. The roots of the technique are steeped in the philosophy and movement patterns designed by Joseph.

The Holistic Principles of Pilates

Joe Pilates based his work on three principles: Breath, whole-body health and whole-body commitment; with the whole-body encompassing mind, body and spirit.

It is in the honouring of the Principles that the depth of the work is achieved. These Principles are traditionally cited as:

  • Breath
  • Concentration
  • Centring
  • Control
  • Precision
  • Flow

"Above all, learn how to breathe correctly."

Joseph Pilates

The main benefits

Whole Body Fitness

Pilates does not over-develop certain parts of the body and neglect others. It focuses on core strength and trains the body as an integrated whole. Pilates workouts promote strength, muscle development, flexibility and increased range of motion for the joints. Attention to core support and full-body fitness, including the breath and the mind, provide a level of integrative fitness that is hard to find through any other discipline. It is also a reason that Pilates is popular in rehab settings as well as with athletes who find that Pilates is a great foundation for any kind of movement they do.

Is Adaptable to Individual Needs

From being a senior new to exercise to being an elite athlete, the foundations of Pilates movement are the same. Building from core strength, focusing on proper alignment, and a body-mind integrative approach make Pilates accessible to all. Pilates workouts can be tailored to everyone’s needs.

Develops Core Strength

The core muscles- muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvic floor - we rely on to support a strong, supple back, give good posture, and offer efficient movement. When our core is strong, the frame of the body is supported. Our neck and shoulders can relax, and the rest of our muscles and joints are free to carry out their roles. Regular Pilates work produces flat abs.

Increases Flexibility

Working toward a safe increase in length and stretch of the muscles and range of motion within the joints.

Some other benefits include:

  • Improved Posture
  • Increased Energy
  • Long, Lean Appearance
  • Weight Loss
  • Increased Awareness
  • Body-Mind connection
  • Strength without bulk

“l have been teaching Pilates since 2014 and found that very quickly my extremely flat back posture improved allowing much more flexibility, range of movement and muscle tone. I have been practicing fitness professionally since 2005, and this was a real game changer for me. I love teaching it and I am deeply passionate about its efficiency. People experience the benefits within weeks of using this method. You get everything you could wish for from a fitness routine, including breathwork and mind connection. The only thing you need to complement this method of training is some cardiovascular work. “

Lorraine Gibson
Founder of The Holistic Wellness School

I used to go to Lorraine's pilâtes classes and I liked her very holistic approach. she's very knowledgeable and welcoming. Shame she moved away. from my town.

Sandra Dumas
Recommends The Holistic Wellness School

3 April at 14:41

Lorraine is a phenomenal teacher. She really goes the extra mile. She was my personal trainer in Bude and she helped me enormously. Nothing was too much trouble and sessions were fun and informative. Highly recommended!

Lynne Holehouse
Recommends The Holistic Wellness School

26 March at 21:50

Lorraine has a great gift of having such a natural empathy with people. Whatever she does, she always puts her heart & soul into it. She has lots of enthusiasm, together with unlimited knowledge, care & understanding of people’s needs! A brilliant teacher who started me off on Pilates,& I’ve never looked back since. All thanks to this wonderful Lady! Wishing her nothing but well in her new fantastic venture.

Claire Palmer
Recommends The Holistic Wellness School

26 March at 21:12

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