Pilates and Chronic Illness


Ok, I admit, I knew virtually nothing about this fitness program. My interest was piqued when I read an article in the magazine “Arthritis Today” discussing the benefits for those with various forms of arthritis. I have done a little research and found that Joseph Pilates had an interesting life. He started out as a sickly child who, as he studied human anatomy, developed this type of exercise that most people can do.

I have also found that even if you are in bed and in pain, you can still do some of these exercises and feel like you have accomplished something. I know that, even though I have not lost any weight, I have strengthened my core muscles by doing a few simple exercises. The beauty of these exercises is that you do not need a lot of specialized equipment. Yes, you can invest in them if you absolutely must have them, but Joseph Pilates actually developed them using common items he found around himself.

So, in the interest of examining some form of exercise that is not painful (Pilates did not want to cause pain, but to strengthen) I am posting this blog with information from a variety of sources, such as wikipedia and .

I have included a biography of Joseph Pilates as well. I hope that this will help some to be able to become stronger even if on bed rest.

*As with any other program of diet, exercise, or medical regimen, please consult your doctor before beginning any program. I do not endorse this program in any way, however, I am providing this information in the interest of knowledge and helping those of us with chronic diseases to find a possible program we can use realistically, not to enodrse this program over any other program out there. Each patient is a unique individual and must talk this over iwth their personal physician before beginning any program. I am also not providing the exercises themselves on this blog. Just information about the creator of the program and some of his quotes.*

Jospeh Pilates Biography (wikipedia)

Joseph H. Pilates was born in 1883[1][2] in Mönchengladbach, Germany. His father was a prize-winning gymnast of Greek ancestry, and his mother worked as a naturopath.[3] The family originally spelled their surname in the Greek manner as “Pilatu”, but changed to using “Pilates.”[citation needed] This caused Joseph Pilates much grief as a child, because older boys taunted him calling him “Pontius Pilate, killer of Christ.”[citation needed]

Pilates was a sickly child and suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever, and he dedicated his entire life to improving his physical strength. Besides skiing frequently, he began studying body-building, yoga, “cong fu” (probably what we now call qigong), and gymnastics. By the age of 14, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. Pilates came to believe that the “modern” life-style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. He ultimately devised a series of exercises and training-techniques and engineered all the equipment, specifications, and tuning required to teach his methods properly.

Pilates was originally a gymnast, diver, and bodybuilder, but when he moved to England in 1912, he earned a living as a professional boxer, circus-performer, and self-defense trainer at police schools and Scotland Yard. Nevertheless, the British authorities interned him during World War I along with other German citizens in a concentration camp on the Isle of Man. During this involuntary break, he began to intensively develop his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he himself called “Contrology.” He studied yoga and the movements of animals and trained his fellow inmates in fitness and exercises. It is told that these inmates survived the great pandemic of 1918 due to their good physical shape.

After the war (WWI), he returned to Germany and collaborated with important experts in dance and physical exercise such as Rudolf Laban. In Hamburg, he also trained police officers. When he was pressured to train members of the German army, he left his native country, disappointed with its political and social conditions, and emigrated to the United States.

The year 1925 is the approximate time when Pilates migrated to the United States.[3] On the ship to America, he met his future wife Clara. The couple founded a studio in New York City and directly taught and supervised their students well into the 1960s. His method, which he and Clara originally called “Contrology,” related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles. It focuses attention on core postural muscles that help keep the human body balanced and provide support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine, and strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles.

Joseph and Clara Pilates soon established a devout following in the local dance and the performing-arts community of New York. Well-known dancers such as George Balanchine, who arrived in the United States in 1933, and Martha Graham, who had come to New York in 1923, became devotees and regularly sent their students to the Pilates for training and rehabilitation.

Joseph Pilates wrote several books, including Return to Life through Contrology and Your Health, and he was also a prolific inventor, with over 26 patents cited.[4] Joe and Clara had a number of disciples who continued to teach variations of his method or, in some cases, focused exclusively on preserving the method, and the instructor-training techniques, they had learned during their studies with Joe and Clara.

Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 84 in New York.

_____________ Famous Pilates Quotes: (from about.com)

Joseph Pilates wrote two books, Return to Life Through Contrology and Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising that Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education.

Below you will find inspiring quotes from Joseph Pilates’ book, Return to Life Through Contrology.

Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.

Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.

Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.
Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit. Through Contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercises you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities.

A few well-designed movements….

A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.

Contrology is not a system of haphazard exercises…

Contrology is not a system of haphazard exercises designed to produce only bulging muscles. … Nor does Contrology err either by over-developed a few muscles at the expense of all others with resulting loss of grace and suppleness, or a a sacrifice of the heart or lungs. Rather, it was conceived to limber and stretch muscles and ligaments so that your body will be as supple as that of a cat and not muscular like that of the body of a brewery-truck horse, or the muscle-bound body of the professional weight lifter you so much admire at the circus.

Contrology develops the body uniformly…

Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit.

Contrology is not a fatiguing system…

Contrology is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily “ad-nausem”.

[T]he only real guide to your true age…

The art of contrology proves that the only real guide to your true age lies not in years or how you THINK you feel but as you ACTUALLY are as infallibly indicated by the degree of natural and normal flexibility enjoyed by your spine throughout life.

This is the equivalent of an “internal shower”.

This is the equivalent of an “internal shower”. As the spring freshness born of the heavy rains and vast masses of melting snows on mountains in the hinterlands cause rivers to swell and rush turbulently onward to the sea, so too will your blood flow with renewed vigor as the direct result of your faithfully performing the Contrology exercises.

[A] body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue…

Moreover, such a body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all of the complex problems of modern living.