Today, December, 9, is Joseph Pilates birthday. Joe passed away in 1967 after teaching his method in New York City for forty years. That is an amazing feat on its own, and it is just a part of what Joseph Pilates accomplished in his life. You can read more about Joe in my brief biography of him and in my articles about Pilates history, but what I want to touch on today, in honor of Joe's birthday, is the tremendous effort he made to help people enjoy their lives.
One of the clearest messages I have received from many readings of Return to Life Through Contrology, as well as listening to Pilates Elders and others who have researched his life, is that Joe did not see fitness as an end in itself -- as many today seem to. He meant for his method to help people live every aspect of their lives with grace, ease and vitality. In Return to Life, Joe uses almost every page to encourage people to use his method to enhance health so that they can "enjoy all the pleasures of life".
In service of that idea, Joe worked tirelessly all the way from the time he was interned in an alien detention camp in WWI, helping other detainees stay healthy and regain movement if they were bedridden, through the rest of his long life helping people recover from injuries, gain strength and flexibility; and to achieve the physical, mental, and spiritual integrity that would allow them to live life as fully as possible. Now, Joe's work has spread and the many benefits of the Pilates system of movement and the exercise machines he invented are enjoyed by people all over the world.
That's a big gift. And one that is worth contemplating, because it was never just about flat abs, muscles, and efficient movement. It's about going beyond fitness and actually using that fitness to as Joe said in Return to Life to "successfully meet[ing] all of the complex problems of modern living". I think that what Joe had to say about enjoying life, what he showed in helping people, and his greater intention "to heal the world" are wonderful reminders of the greater applications of what we can be doing -- here at the beginning of what can be a stressful, or delightful, season. Thanks for your presents and presence, Joe!