What do Madonna, Oprah and Sting have in common, other than being obscenely wealthy and only needing one name?

They, along with millions of other people, practice Pilates. 

German-born Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) was a bullied, sickly child who suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever.  As he grew up, he devoted his life to developing a self-improvement system, drawn from Zen and the ancient Greek notion of a man ideal in body, mind and spirit.  He came to believe that bad posture and improper breathing were the causes of poor health. 

While working in England as a circus performer and boxer, he was placed in forced internment due to the outbreak of World War I. Since he didn't have access to exercise equipment, he developed a series of integrated mat exercises that he termed "Contrology."  He trained other inmates, and he is credited with getting them in such good condition that they all survived the 1918 flu epidemic. 

After the war, he returned to Germany where he collaborated with exercise and dance experts to fine-tune his method.  When he was asked to train the German Army, though, he emigrated to the United States.  On the boat ride over, he met his future wife, Clara.  The two opened a Pilates studio in New York and taught students there well into the 1960s. 

Classical Pilates refers to the original exercises developed by Pilates and allows for no variation in the method or order of the exercises.  Many instructors teach this way at least initially so that the basics can be learned as Pilates intended, by building strength from the inside out. 

In 2000, a court ruled that the term "Pilates" could not be trademarked. As a result, anyone can use the term and take liberties with the original system by incorporating moves from current kinesiology research or adding equipment, for example.  There are even hybrids with other types of exercise, such as piloxing (Pilates and kickboxing) or yogalates (Pilates and yoga).

If you're interested in trying Pilates in your own home, the Denver Public Library has the resources to get you started. 


The 10 Minute Solution Series is great because it allows you to choose as many or as few as you wish of the five 10-minute mini-sessions.  I recommend those made by Lara Hudson, an award-winning Chicago-based fitness professional who happened to grow up in Denver.

10 Minute Solution - Pilates for Beginners

10 Minute Solution - Pilates on the Ball

10 Minute Solution - Rapid Results Pilates

10 Minute Solution - Tighten & Tone Pilates

Pilates (Spanish)


Pilates Illustrated by Portia Page (2011)

Easy Pilates: Any Age, Any Place, Any Time by Mina Stephens (2008)

Pilates:  Tu Plan Personal en 15 Minutos by Alycea Ungaro (Spanish, 2009)

Written by Lisa on February 21, 2013


Frank Wilmot (… on February 28, 2013


Nice post Lisa!! I wonder if I can come up with a swimming/pilates combination... I'll call it poolates. :-)


Hmm, not sure how that would work since you'd have to spend most of your time lying on the bottom of the pool. Actually, there is an exercise called "swimming" in Pilates. It's awful.

Devorah Al-irimi on August 8, 2013


Leg Circles

Lie face up on the floor and raise right leg straight up over hip, toe pointed. Keeping abs tight and torso stabilized slowly circle leg clockwise 5 times, making big circles without moving your torso or hips ( Only the leg moves ). Repeat 5 times counterclockwise and switch legs. Repeat 2-3 times on each leg.

See more.....
only the leg moves

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