The Pilates Method

The Pilates method was created by German-born Joseph H. Pilates and his common-law wife Clara Zeuner and has been in continuous use in the U.S. since 1929. Mr. Pilates first developed his concepts and philosophy while living overseas and then further refined and delineated his exercise system which he referred to as ‘Contrology’. It is now legally defined after a landmark trademark decision in US Federal court in October of 2000 as the Pilates method or simply Pilates.

The method was originally passed down from Joseph and Clara Pilates in an oral format to their many students and teachers. Mr. Pilates did write two books: Your Health and Return to Life through Contrology; the latter title outlines and delineates in a specific order the Mat exercise sequence he developed and taught to his students. It is important to note that he never published any reference materials or a book indicating a specific order to his other exercise sequences on the various apparatus he developed. The Pilates community of practitioners is wide-ranging and diverse with varying opinions on the correct way to teach the Pilates method.

The Pilates Initiative promotes the safe and effective teaching and practice of the Pilates method. The science of the mind and the body is constantly changing and updating itself as new and varied research is discovered and presented to the health industry at large and especially practitioners of somatic (human movement) teachings in the U.S.

The scope of knowledge of the human body and its function has changed greatly since Joseph and Clara’s time and The Pilates Initiative promotes the constant evolution and flow of information on human movement.


We support the holistic approach to health and well being that Mr. Pilates originated through Contrology. The Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) further assisted in defining the Pilates method by establishing overriding principles of Whole Body Health, Whole Body Commitment and Breath as well as the Pilates movement principles. These were created when the PMA designed their entry-level certification exam for Pilates instructors and were based upon information and research gathered from the first generation teachers – the few individuals who were actually trained by Joseph H. Pilates.

“The movement principles are elements that are present in the successful performance of all the Pilates exercises: whole body movement, breathing, balanced muscle development, concentration, control, centering, precision, and rhythm. (PMA Study Guide 2005)”

The Pilates exercise method is designed to train the entire body and does not isolate the body into muscle groups only. Pilates produces an improved aesthetic to the body but never focuses attention on pure aesthetic. Pilates places exercise and movement focus on breath control, postural symmetry, abdominal strength and control, joint strength and increased range of motion. Pilates specifically teaches how to integrate upper and lower extremities with the trunk. The systematic practice of the Pilates method coupled with focused breathing patterns has proven to be invaluable not only as a fitness endeavor but also as an important adjunct to professional sports training and physical rehabilitation of all kinds.

Subscribe to our newsletter


The Pilates Initiative

support, outreach, education, advocacy

Contact Us

As we begin this new journey, we'd love to hear from you! You can contact us at the email below, or you can submit a message with the form to the right. This effort is going to take the entire community so we look forward to your thoughts, questions and input.