Wednesday, June 30, 2004

What's good enough for Hitler...

Pilates classes have always been too expensive for my budget, so most of what I know about Pilates comes from videotapes. But this all changed last night, when I coaxed my friend Lynn to attend a strangely affordable Pilates class here in the Rust Belt. Location: a church basement. Level of intensity: Less than vigorous, although the instructor promised that subsequent classes will be more challenging.

The instructor began the evening with a short history of Pilates' founder, Joseph Pilates, who "developed his muscle lengthening and strengthening techniques while rehabilitating prisoners--I mean patients!" she blushed. If ever we doubted Pilates' effectiveness, we should remember that "Hitler was a great admirer and wanted Joseph Pilates to train his prisoners. Uh, or rather, to train his elite guard. That was during World War I." (Lynn and I were by now exchanging worried glances, which, in the mirrored basement, the instructor caught.) "Or one of the World Wars. Anyway, Joseph Pilates fled then to England…"

After class came the inevitable sick humor. Matt asked if we would be returning "to take the master race—-er, master class.” Adam wanted to know if the instructor often urged us to ex-heil.

What I can't figure out is why, in seven years of using Pilates tapes, I've yet to come across one that touts this Hitler connection. When the instructor puts on the tinkly new-age music, should we regard ourselves as prisoners or convalescents? And is she the elite guard?


At 2:41 PM, Blogger Benedict said...

I did some research on the subject. It would seem Joseph Pilates spent WWI in England, in an alien internment camp, training fellow German inmates in his methods. He did go back to Germany after the war to join the Hamburg police force, but emigrated to America in the mid-twenties.

None of the sites I visited mentioned Hitler, but since most of them are involved in the business of selling videos and paraphernalia, I gather it isn't a big selling point.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Mel said...

That has got to be the strangest exercise testimonial I've ever heard. As if talking about Hitler would actually encourage anyone to do anything. Given her confusion over guards and prisoners, I'd be cautious when she drags out some of the Pilates equipment... there are a couple which look like medieval torture racks-- but, really, I'm sure they're great for building core strength. Just don't get "volunteer"ed for prisoner duty.

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