Caged Lion – The Interview with John Howard Steel

John Howard Steel is about to upend many things you thought you know about Pilates.

John learned Pilates directly from Joseph Pilates. He practiced at Joe’s gym on Eighth Avenue from 1963 until Joe’s death in 1967. After Joe died, John was instrumental in the continuation of Contrology; along with two others he formed a committee that kept the gym going and supported Clara, and he single-handedly convinced Romana to take on the starring role as Joe’s successor.

John’s book Caged Lion is the surprising and delightful history of Pilates, from Joe’s mysterious early life, through his time in New York and John’s experience of learning Pilates (Contrology) from Joe, and striding arm-in-arm with Joe through the streets of New York, listening to Joe lecture about his favourite and only subject of conversation, Contrology.

But the book goes far beyond Joe’s life, it is the story of Pilates itself – how it transcended Joe’s personality and his lifetime, and became a worldwide phenomenon bringing happiness to millions.

I have been teaching Pilates for 16 years and I was repeatedly surprised by Caged Lion, not to mention entertained. It is an enthralling read; a genuinely well-written book which brings the characters to life in 3 dimensions. If you have even a passing interest in Pilates you absolutely must read it, trust me.

In this interview John and I discuss Joe’s personality, his teaching style and what it was like to learn from him, we talk about what defines Pilates and ultimately how it doesn’t matter what kind of Pilates you do, but rather HOW you do it.

Raphael Bender
CEO Breathe Education

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