Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in Germany in the early 1900's. Joseph Pilates originally developed his method as mat exercises. He then added several pieces of equipment to help people 'get the method in their bodies'. His first students were dancers, many who went on to open studios and teach the method to others.
Pilates emphasizes core strength and stabilization. Joseph Pilates identified the center of the body as the "powerhouse". When this core is strengthened it offers a solid foundation for any movement. This power engine is a muscular network which provides the basic control and stability in the lumbopelvic region. When sitting, a strong core elevates the torso and places the center of gravity at its highest and most efficient position; in prone position it elongates the body to reduce weight in the upper body; in supine position it elongates the body and places the center of gravity again at its highest and most efficient position.
The human spine is made up of a complex chain of ligaments, fascia, bone, muscles and inter-vertebral discs which are required to be both stable and flexible. The natural curves of the spine are interdependent. In Pilates the aim throughout most stabilizing exercises is to maintain these natural curves and create a neutral position for each joint that is close to its optimal alignment. In this neutral position the deep postural muscles of the spine can be recruited effectively, thus strengthening each vertebrae in alignment to reduce stress on the spinal tissues and inter-vertebral discs.