Pilates - West Dulwich

Wendy Jardine

History of Pilates

Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born into a devout Catholic family near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880. He was a great observer and a self-taught man. His studies began when he was a child, he was one of 9 children.  He studied Eastern and Western forms of exercise including yoga, Zen and ancient Greek and Roman regimens.  He spent hours poring over an anatomy book given to him by a family physician.  "I learned every page, every part of the body; I would move each part as I memorized it.  As a child, I would lie in the woods for hours, hiding and watching the animals move, how the mother taught the young," Pilates said of himself.  He used imagery in his naming of his 34 original moves that reflected his observational nature, for example corkscrew, boomerang, swan dive, jack knife.  He was a frail, skinny child who suffered from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever and he was severely bullied for his name. Taunted by older boys "Pontius Pilate, killer of Christ"  He lost the sight in one eye from a stone wielded by bullies. 

By the age of 14, he was fit and well and had developed an Adonis-like anatomical ideal and modelled for anatomy charts!  He became a competent gymnast, diver, skier and an expert in self-defence.  In his thirties he was in England and trained as a boxer and taught self-defence to detectives at Scotland Yard.  His circus work had made him a star by 1914. A success story.  He believed our modern lifestyle, bad posture, and inefficient breathing were the roots of poor health.  1914 however saw the beginning of WW1 and Joseph was interned with other German nationals in Lancaster.  He insisted that everyone in his cellblock participated in daily exercise routines.  During the latter part of the War, he served as an orderly in a hospital on the Isle of Man, he made sure the injured could exercise by modifying hospital beds and wheel chairs, by providing resistance exercises for his bedridden comrades.  In fact if you look at the equipment Pilates created, for example the Cadillac, you will see that, even now, it is a modified hospital bed and the Wunda Chair a modified wheel chair. He also used beer barrels to create, what we now know as the Barrel!  He used the steel hoops of the keg, too, to make the first Magic Circle, the Isotoner, which is Wendy's favourite equipment of all.

In the sixties, Pilates had become popular with the dance community, as his work offered a chance to improve technique or recover from injury.  Word spread quickly and many celebrities of the day visited Joseph Pilates' studio, including George Balanchine, founder of American ballet and Martha Graham, founder of Contemporary Dance.

During this time, Pilates trained Alan Herdman and in 1970 Alan Herdman introduced Pilates to the UK.  He was a dancer with London Contemporary and opened the first UK studio for Pilates.  His clients were exclusively dancers and one was Michael King.  Michael King founded the Pilates Institute and he opened the Body Control Studio at the Pineapple Dance Studios in 1982.  He developed accredited training programmes so that people all over the world could learn to become "highly skilled teachers of Pilates".

Why do Contrology?

Pilates called his technique Contrology.  Over the years all his moves have been analysed by physiotherapists, physicians, scientists and anatomists and we know why it works and how to modify moves, so that Contrology is accessible to all.  Contrology is about breath, connection, precision, control, flow, concentration, mobilisation, isolation, strength, flexibility, balance and movement, that restores every part of the body including the mind.

What is Contrology in one sentence?

Contrology is conscious movement that is scientifically proven to work.

Why do Contrology with Wendy?

The baton continues to pass from generation to generation.  Wendy was lucky enough to train under the prowess of Michael King at the Pilates Institute. She trained to Masters level and continues her professional development.  Wendy opened her studio in 2007. Since 2008, Wendy has also taught for The Royal Academy of Dance.  Teaching dancers from all over the world, their work and understanding of Contrology improves their technique and empowers their knowledge of how to keep themselves balanced and free from injury. Wendy has developed and presents CPD courses accreditted by the RAD. She believes in Contrology and sees the results daily.  She wants Contrology to be accessible to all, and the video library is part of this plan. She knows Contrology works and welcomes you to Wendy's Pilates. 

"Watch a cat, as it lazily opens its eyes, slowly looks around, and gradually prepares to rise after a nap. First, it gradually rises on its hindquarters and then gradually lowers itself again, at the same time sprawling out on the floor, leisurely stretching its forepaws (with extended claws) and legs. Observe closely how all its back muscles actually ripple as it stretches and relaxes itself.... Observe, too, how cats sleep - utterly relaxed whether they happen to be lying on their back, side or belly, Contrology exercises emphasize the need for this constant stretching and relaxing"

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Wendy Jardine Pilates
Unit 26449, PO Box 6945, London W1A 6US

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