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Mindful Movement Pilates Training Studio

Carrie Stillman, PMA®-CPT & Certified Pilates
Trainer Since 1994
1712 Casita Ct.,Santa Rosa, CA 95409

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A Brief History of Pilates

Joseph Pilates was born a sickly child, suffering from such ailments as rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever, near Düsseldorf, Germany in 1880. Due to his physical weaknesses, he was determined to overcome them through various methods of fitness and sport, including body building, diving, skiing, and gymnastics. He soon excelled in all of these activities, and by the time he was fourteen he was so physically fit that he worked as a model for anatomical charts.

In 1912, Pilates move to the U.K. where he worked as a boxer, circus performer, and a self-defense trainer to detectives. During World War I, he was taken prisoner of was due to his nationality, and was placed in a camp in Lancaster. As the war proceeded, Pilates was moved to another camp on the Isle of Man, where he became a hospital nurse and soon developed a fitness regimen for the other internees. He devised equipment by removing bed springs and attaching them to the walls so inmates could work out using the springs while confined to lying in their beds. After a flu epidemic that killed thousands, Joseph Pilates’ fitness methods were accredited as the main reason none of these inmates succumbed to the deadly virus.

Returning to Germany after the war, Pilates settled in Hamburg where he continued developing his conditioning regimen, working with the local police force until he was drafted into the army. He eventually became disillusioned with Germany, and in 1926 decided to set sail for the U.S. On the ship over, he met a young nurse, Clara, who later became his wife.

He settled in New York City, where he set up his first fitness studio at 939 Eighth Avenue. Not much is known about the early years, but by the 1940s, his methods of exercise became very popular with the dance world. By the 1960s, many of New York’s most famous dancers became regular clients of Pilates, as well as actors, gymnasts, and athletes. One such client was George Balanchine, who also invited Joseph Pilates to teach the ballerinas in the New York City Ballet. Since that time, the Pilates method of mental and physical conditioning gained enormous popularity. Most recently, the public at large has discovered the benefits of this technique, and it continues to grow as one of the most effective core strengthening and lengthening fitness methods.

Joseph Pilates was way ahead of his time. The original exercises, created by him in the 1920s, consisted of thirty-four moves. His influences came form his fascination of various sports and exercise methods from both Eastern and Western disciplines. What set his approach apart from others was that he brought a functional element into the moves that positively affected one’s overall fitness, well-being, and daily life. Pilates never formalized his routine; instead he would personalize the moves to the needs of each individual client. Therefore, many of his followers continued to devise their own version of the Pilates system to meet the ever changing needs of clients, as well as to stay current with the latest in mind and body research. Thus, although the basic principles of the method are unwavering, the actual teachings now vary slightly in style, emphasis, and approach. Even so, his original thirty-four exercises are undeniably his forever, and should always be acknowledged as such by all teachers of this amazing and ground breaking fitness method.


Carrie is a wonderful trainer. She combines a deep knowledge of the body with a warm and engaging style that makes her a pleasure to work with. Her assistance has allowed me to continue activities that I was afraid I would have to give up. 
Kevin Cooper, MFT -Santa Rosa, CA