Welcome to the Wendy House N12

Background to Pilates


STOTT PILATES – the contemporary approach to the mind-body exercises pioneered by Joseph Hubertus Pilates 1880-1967.

Joseph Pilates was born in Dusseldorf in 1880. He was a frail, sickly child who suffered from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. He was determined to overcome this fragility and experimented with many different fitness regimes.

He was influenced by roga, gymnastics, skiing, self-defence, dance, circus training and weight training, and he chose aspects of each to develop his own body. By absorbing these othermethods and selecting the most effective features, Pilates was able to work out a system which had the perfect balance of strength and flexibility.

Having proven their worth on his own body, he then began to teach detectives at Scotland Yard when the First World War broke out and because of his nationality he was interned in Lancashire and then the Isle of Man. With time on his hands, he helped out in the camp infirmary and further developed his techniques training his fellow internees with amazing success. Many of them were war veterans who had been horrendously wounded and these injuries had, in some cases, resulted in amputations. Much of his knowledge of rehabilitation comes from this period.

At the end of the war he returned to Germany where he taught self-defence to the German army. In 1926 he decided to emigrate to the United States of America. On the boat he met his future wife Clara and, when they realised they shared the same views on fitness, they decided to set up a studio in New York. This attracted top ballet dancers, (many sent from George Balanchine and Martha Graham), actors and actresses, gymnasts and athletes, all anxious to learn from Pilates.

Joseph Pilates wrote many books on fitness. The exercises he describes in them are very advanced and reflect the nature of his studio clientele.

Pilates’ interest was in the overall health of his clients: he advocated skin brushing long before it became generally popular and was also keen on fresh air on the body – he would often teach in his swimming trunks! One major principle dominates his work: there must be commitment to the exercises, no excuses, they must be done regularly in order to realise results.

Pilates never took the initiative of setting up an official training programme with the result that many of his disciples went on to teach their own versions of his method. The definition of what was, or is, true Pilates is therefore somewhat blurred and, indeed, is still being debated today. It is not helped by the fact that Pilates rarely taught the same exercise in the same way two days running, partly because he geared his teaching to the needs of the individual and prescribed a completely different set of exercises for each client. Some of these clients themselves went on to teach, each one therefore, working with a different emphasis.

Stott Pilates mind-body exercises builds on the essence and principles of the late Joseph H Pilates’ work by incorporating modern knowledge about the body, focussing on developing the safest and most effective programming available, aiming for optimal musculoskeletal performance – strength, flexibility and endurance – without risking injury or building bulk. With a focus on core stability, including pelvic and shoulder girdle stabilisation, neutral alignment and breathing, Stott Pilates also helps restore the natural curves of the spine, relieve tension and enhance self-confidence. The result: a balanced and aligned body that looks fit, feels revitalised and moves with ease.


Wendy Bernardelle