Friday, April 2, 2021

Immigrant of the Day: Joseph Pilates

Joseph Pilates, creator of the core-strengthening exercise that is popular among dancers and sufferers of back pain, is featured in a fascinating human interest story on Narratively.

Pilates was born in Germany in 1883. He suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever as a child. He sought to improve his own health and had an unexpected opportunity while interned during World War I. Upon imprisonment he asked "could he reimagine the capabilities of the human body through an anatomically based method of training, taking inspiration from scientific treatises, the carefree movement of children, and the deterous ease of cats?"

During that dark period, he met people whose imprisonment left them sedentary and their spirits depleted. The early exercises involved rudimentary machines built of metal coils lying around the camp and headboards from hospital beds. They enabled strengthening... and breathing. "Above all, laern how to breathe correctly," was his mantra. The exercises were adapted over the years and Pilates founded a Body Conditioning Gym in New York City in the 1920s.

Word spread throughout Manhattan. “He wants the whole human race to be beautiful and healthy — and barring acts of God, he can tell them how,” New York fashion editor Marie Beynon Ray observed as she went to his studio and trained with him.

Today more than 12 million people practice pilates.


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