Joseph Pilates, was born in 1880 near Düsseldorf, Germany. As a child, he was subject to numerous illnesses which gave him the determination to be strong and healthy. He took up body-building, boxing and gymnastics to the point where by his teens he was getting work as a model for anatomical drawings. He explored and practised every kind of exercise he could and studied both Western and Eastern ideas about health and physical fitness and recorded the results. Dedicated to his task, he also practised the Eastern disciplines of yoga, tai chi, martial arts and Zen meditation. Additionally, he studied anatomy and animal movements.

In 1912 he travelled to England as a circus performer and self-defence trainer. When World War I broke out, he was interned in a camp on the Isle of Man. There, he developed a fitness programme for his fellow internees in order to maintain their health and fitness levels whilst being held in confinement. During his internment, he began devising apparatus to help in the rehabilitation of the sick and injured. The legacy of which can be seen in apparatus, such as the reformer and cadillac, both of which are fashioned around the shape of bed frame. Although, there are many fully equipped studios around the world, most people are more familiar with the repertoire on the mat.

When Pilates returned to Germany, he came into contact with the world of dance and, in particular, Rudoph von Laban, the originator of the most widely used form of dance notation. Hanya Holm included many of his exercises in her programme and, to this day, they are still part of the celebrated 'Holm Technique'. At the same time as working with dancers, Joseph Pilates was also instructing the Hamburg police force in self-defence!

He was, in fact, asked to train the new German army, but declined and decided to emigrate to the United States of America. He opened his first studio in New York in 1926 along with Clara, his wife and assistant, whom he had met on the Atlantic crossing.

His new method was an instant hit, particularly among dancers (he shared an address with the New York City Ballet) such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine. Other dancers also became devotees. They found the Pilates method the best way both to recover from injuries and to prevent their recurrence. Gradually, a wider audience got to hear of it the method.

Originally known as ‘Controlology’, it was only later that his method became known by his surname. He conceived it as a mental as well as a physical conditioning in which individuals could work their bodies to their full potential. In explaining Controlology’s guiding principle, he liked to quote Schiller: ‘lt is the mind itself which builds the body’.

His studio soon began to attract the 'elite' of New York with leading ballet dancers coming to him because his exercises perfected and complemented their traditional exercise programme. Actors and actresses, elite sportsmen and women, and the rich and famous were all attracted to a workout that built strength without adding bulk, balancing that strength with flexibility, and achieving the perfect harmony between mind and muscle.

Pilates remained essentially unknown to the general public until the late 1980s, when the media began to cover Pilates extensively. As the public became aware of the benefits of Pilates, demand for classes increased rapidly and there are now an estimated 25 million people now take regular Pilates classes in the USA and over one million in the UK.

Today, it is taught in several forms around the world, directly reflecting the legacy of Joseph Pilates, who developed the method some 80 years ago. His 'disciples' continued teaching by adding variations and their own interpretations, where appropriate, to meet the needs of individual clients whilst maintaining the core philosophy and purpose of the exercises. Enabling an individual approach to the Pilates method is one of the reasons why it has been so successful over this time period.

Pilates and the Small Equipment Kathleen will be running a series of one off classes for clients who would like a stronger work out, using a range of techniques and small equipment.

The next sessions will be: Friday 6th and 13th September, 9am-10am

Using small equipment such as the magic circle, bands and balls to enhance your Pilates practice and build a stronger workout.

Classes are limited to 8 participants. This class is not recommended for anyone with injuries or who is currently in rehabilitation. Previous Pilates experience preferred.

Pilates (Gentle/rehab) Autumn term Thursday 26th September - Thursday 31st October, 2pm-3pm - this six week term focuses on core stability and strength as will as incorporating specific exercises for clients with injuries and illnesses. Cost per term is £59.

Pilates/floor barre - a strong, dynamic workout incorporating both ballet warm up exercises and Pilates movements set to music. Suitable for clients who have done Pilates before. Not suitable for rehabilitation. Cost: £60. Thursday 26th September - Thursday 31st October, 3.15pm-4.15pm

Please contact Kathleen on katieredshoes@gmail.com or phone 07771 651931 for more information and to book.

Will Wheen