Posted on April 9, 2021 at 12:49 pm by Carol Tannenhauser
By Lisa Kava
Pilates, a mind-body exercise method which focuses on strengthening, stretching and core work, was founded in Europe in the midst of the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Its founder, Joseph Pilates, a German, later claimed all of his students remained healthy and that none had contracted the influenza virus, which was rampant. Today the workout is alive and well on the Upper West Side, where most Pilates studios have withstood another pandemic, COVID-19.
While Pilates can be done on a yoga mat, classical Pilates utilizes multiple large pieces of equipment, (known in the Pilates world as apparatus), such as the reformer, the cadillac, and the tower, among others.
Unlike Yoga studios, which rely primarily on group classes, Pilates studios were already accustomed to conducting in-person private or semi-private sessions (known as duets), in large part because the apparatus takes up space in the studio. Yoga studios were challenged this past year, since group fitness classes shut down in March 2020, and only recently received the green light to resume at 33% capacity on March 22, 2021. Most shifted to a virtual format, but some temporarily or permanently closed. While the shut-down was also tough for Upper West Side Pilates studios, many have been offering in-studio private sessions since the fall.
Joseph Pilates was interned along with other Germans by the British at a camp on a small island during World War I. Pilates, who had been sickly as a child, but later became a boxing coach, gymnast, and body builder, created a set of exercises for himself and other prisoners, in order to keep moving and stay healthy. During his time working as a hospital orderly at the camp, Pilates attached bed springs to hospital beds, implementing an exercise regimen for those that were ill. After the war, he was known to recall how none of his students contracted the flu.
“The “nobody got sick” assertion became central to the trainer’s regimen, and it was repeated over and over. In a 1962 profile, a writer for Sports Illustrated summarized the legend: “No man who exercised his principles came down with influenza during the great epidemic,” reported The New York Times.
Pilates and his wife, Clara, eventually moved to New York City, where he opened his first Pilates studio on Eighth Avenue in 1923. The method was embraced by dancers, including George Balanchine and Martha Graham, and quickly gained widespread popularity.
The Upper West Side is home to numerous Pilates studios today. West Side Rag compiled a list of local studios and what they are currently offering. Representatives from each studio listed said that Covid-19 safety precautions remain in place including: temperature checks, air filtration systems, air purifiers, mandatory mask wearing, health questionnaires, and sanitization of apparatus between clients.
Candlestick Pilates at 140 West 83rd Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam, has…