Pilates: Cats and Capitalism
Words by Tai Salih
As you flip through a plethora of fitness magazines and scroll through Instagram fitness influencers, you’ll come to find the same messaging over and over again:
“You are not fit enough.”
“These are the only acceptable standards of health and fitness.”
“These expensive outfits are the only acceptable attire in a fitness space.”
Capitalism has completely invaded the wellness industry making access more challenging. There is a focus on the external Instagrammable benefits and content that includes fatphobic rhetoric. Profits dictate what we should be wearing, how we should work out, and what our ‘#fit goals’ should be. And in doing so, many who are showing up to virtual and fitness spaces are being pushed a very specific narrative about what fitness is and how it should be.
Most end up partaking in a practice that has long since pulled away from its intention. Pilates, for instance, has morphed in this pursuit of profits; it now caters to fit, white, and able bodied women across the western hemisphere. In doing so, classes have become inaccessible to a large portion of the population.
The History of Pilates: Internment, Yoga, and Cats
In studying the history of how Pilates came to be we learn that its inventor, Joseph Pilates, traveled to England in 1912 and along with other German nationals was interned in a camp on the Isle of Man during WWI. During his time there, he taught and practiced his physical fitness program for sick prisoners and himself. The development of his practice was influenced by sources as varied as yoga and the movements of animals – particularly cats – at a time when England was hit by an influenza epidemic.
After his release, Pilates moved to the US, opened up a studio, and continued to teach his programming. He named the program “contrology” to reflect his belief in the importance of the mind’s control over the body.
Key principles to this approach are:
Kathy Stanford Grant: Pilates Pioneer