Syndicat Professionnel des  
du Québec (CPMDQ)

La méthode Pilates, c'est quoi ?

Joseph H. Pilates was born in Germany in 1882. As a child, his health was fragile. He was even threatened by tuberculosis. To overcome this illness and get back into shape, Joseph began rigorous training and became an athlete in several sports, including gymnastics, skiing, diving, boxing and others. By the age of fourteen, he had become an anatomical model thanks to his well-developed musculature.

In 1912, he moved to England, where he became a professional boxer and self-defense instructor. He gave “Roman combat” shows. Two years later, at the outbreak of the First World War, as a German citizen, Joseph was imprisoned by the British authorities. To keep himself and his comrades in shape, he introduced a series of floor exercises influenced by yoga and weight training. These exercises kept him healthy. Legend has it that all those who followed his program were spared the 1918 flu epidemic. This was the birth of Pilates floor exercises.

Working as an “orderly” for wounded soldiers during his imprisonment, he developed a system of springs that he attached to the wounded men’s beds to strengthen their muscles during convalescence. This idea gave rise to the Pilates apparatus we know today.

Returning to Germany after the war, he trained Hamburg police officers in his new discoveries. His meeting with Rudolf Von Laban, one of the pioneers of modern dance, was also important for the development of his technique.

In 1926, he emigrated to the United States. During the journey, he met Clara, a nurse who soon became his wife. Together, they opened a fitness studio in New York. Pilates quickly became a hit with American dancers such as George Balanchine and Martha Graham, who discovered its benefits in improving flexibility, posture, endurance and technical performance. Subsequently, actors, singers and athletes took advantage of this new arrival to improve their physical condition. He called his technique “Contrology”. The technique had to wait until the end of the ’70s before making its way out of New York. It was at this time that Pilates emulators began teaching the technique on the American West Coast, where it was adopted by Hollywood stars.

In the ’90s, a team of health professionals at St-Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco (orthopedists, physiotherapists and Pilates instructors) became interested in the benefits of Pilates in a rehabilitation context. This was the birth of therapeutic Pilates or post-rehabilitation Pilates.

Subsequently, the interest in holistic health approaches that began in the early 2000s contributed to the growing popularity of the method and its use for general conditioning purposes. Many athletes and sports teams are now incorporating Pilates into their physical preparation plans.

Ann McMillan, a member of the CPMDQ, is the pioneer of Pilates in Quebec.

The first Pilates studio in Montreal opened in 1992 on Queen Mary Street in Montreal’s west end under the banner “Centre Pilates de Montréal”. Ann McMillan began her pioneering work and her great Pilates adventure. She had been bitten by the Pilates bug in the ’80s, while pursuing a career in modern dance in New York. Thank you and bravo Ann!