The Pilates Heritage Congress 2019 - a personal look back.

After 2 years of waiting it was finally time for another three-day Pilates Heritage Congress from May 10th - 12th, 2019 in Joseph Pilates’ city of birth, Mönchengladbach. This year there were about 250 participants from 43 countries from all over the world. The number of countries is a world record for Pilates conferences. This made the Pilates Heritage Congress 2019 the most international Pilates Congress of all time.

The conference took place in the "Haus Erholung" ("House of Recreation") - the name sounds strange, but the building on the Abtei-hill is absolutely beautiful.

The Preparations on Thursday

Before the conference could begin, we had to get down to business, since all four training rooms and the lobby had to be prepared. For the first time, the gymnasium of the "Stiftisches Humanistisches Gymnasium Mönchengladbach" school, right next to the school building, was included as a course room. The high school's teachers had already taken a Pilates lesson with Kathy Corey and Claudia Holtmanns the day before, and Brett Howard gave two workshops for the students on Friday.

Why am I toiling in the pictures below? My official job title is "Member of the Board", which means that I am part of the conference's organizing team. That's why I also sit on stage here and there, drag mats around or take care of the presenters' projectors together with the technical staff of the house.

As at the last two conferences, BonPilates, the device sponsor of our conference, was also present. Compared to the congress two years ago, however, they had a completely new classic line of equipment. Here are some pictures of the devices in still empty rooms.

The Start on Friday

Finally, the congress began. After a quick registration of all participants, we met upstairs in the wonderful ballroom. Below is a picture of the opening ceremony, led by the director of the congress: Kathy Corey. On stage with her, the "Board" and the presenters who had already arrived. In the center, by the way, is Lolita San Miguel, who studied with Joseph Pilates himself.


Lolita also greeted the participants and told them how Claudia Holtmann's phone call to her led to the conference. I have been attending the congress myself from 2011 and since Kathy Corey took it under her wing, it has grown and become better known every year.

Eroffnungszeremonie Lolita.JPG

Pilates for the elderly

My personal surprise was (drum roll) ....

... that I was allowed to hold a workshop on the topic "Pilates for the Elderly" on Friday morning.

How come? The flight of one of the conference's presenters, Sherri Betz, was cancelled due to bad weather conditions on Thursday. It was therefore clear that she would miss her first two workshops on Friday.

When I arrived on Thursday to prepare for the conference, Kathy Corey asked if I could fill in for Sherri Betz the next morning. I spontaneously said yes - the panic came a few hours later.

After I had returned from Mönchengladbach around 6 pm and left my studio at 9 pm, I started to prepare a small presentation for "my" workshop overnight and the following morning. Here are some of the slides (though without the pictures).

From my own point of view the workshop went well to okay, but to be honest I wasn't sure how it was perceived by the participants. After all, they had expected Sherri Betz and paid for seeing her. Although I received positive feedback from several participants immediately afterwards, I wasn't sure if it was just out of courtesy. Until I found this review of my workshop in a blog post by Jess Bagnall:

Head to my first lesson with Sherri Betz, oh hang on a minute, she hasn’t made it due to a canceled flight. What a shame, I was really looking forward to her Older Adult Mat Class for Balance and Fall Prevention to add to my repertoire for my gentle pilates class. Her combined theoretical and applied approach to teaching this population appealed to me in order to give my classes more flow and structure, when the traditional scope of pilates cannot be used. Oh well, another year, another time (another $585). We listened to Reiner Grootenhuis instead who was an absolute joy, sharing his experience of working with older clients (although I wouldn’t put 65 as old, I was thinking more like 85) and by the end of the 2 hours, I had reams of notes and a smiley face, thanks Reiner! So not quite what I was expecting but useful nonetheless and reassuring that all the modifications I use and exercises that I (think I) invent are all being used out there in the wider pilates world, yey!

You can probably imagine how happy I was.

Two other participants also commented on Facebook:

You did a great job Reiner, couldn’t tell you were jumping in or nervous at all. A true Proffi! 😊🙏
— Kim Kanwischer on Facebook
You did a great job Reiner.Your presentation was excellent,accurate, just to the point.You gave us so many directions based on your personal experience!!And all given with sensitivity and humor!Congrats and (why not) do it again!!!!!
— Mary Vetoula on Facebook

Seems like it worked out pretty well after all.

After this start on Friday morning I tried to take it a little easier. However, the ceremony in front of Joseph Pilates' birthplace, a new form of the round table and a dinner with the city council of Mönchengladbach were still on the agenda.

The Ceremony at Joseph Pilates House of Birth

As during every conference, all participants met at Joseph Pilates' birthplace for a small memorial service. The mayor of Mönchengladbach and, for the first time, the city council of Mönchengladbach were also present.

Show Time

In the evening a new task was already waiting for me. During the Wine & Cheese I was asked to annoy presenters with funny questions like "If you were a Pilates exercise, what exercise would you be?" or "What was your biggest Pilates clothing faux pas". The answers were surprising, humorous and sometimes also quite deep.

Later that evening we then met with a part of the city council of Mönchengladbach. Everyone was very interested and we spontaneously started to perform some exercises. After all, you can't tell from looking at the equipment what it was built for. At that time Claudia Holtmanns was already wearing high heels though and I was in a tie.

Teaser in Krawatte.jpg

According to the motto: "It can't be that hard", our guests also tried one or two exercises themselves.


This picture shows the mayor of Mönchengladbach being introduced to the Reformer exercises by me. Afterwards we went to dinner with the city council and presenters, and the city of Mönchengladbach took the opportunity to thank us for the congress.

Moenchengladbach Stadtrat 05.jpg

How important our Pilates Heritage Congress is for the city was shown when Christoph Dohmen (member of the city council of Mönchengladbach and CDU faction leader in the district representation MG Nord) announced on Facebook the city's test decree to name a "Pilates Square" the Tuesday after the congress.


”It really was quite an extreme experience to see the international enthusiasm for Pilates at the International Pilates Heritage Congress. The opening and memorial ceremonies in front of the ‘thick tower’ right at the Pilates plaque attracted a major part of the congress’ participants. I would be very happy if we could keep the memory of a Gladbach-native with millionfold worldwide popularity and maybe even strengthen the interest here in Mönchengladbach.
Again, thank you to Claudia Holtmanns and Reiner Grootenhuis for the crash-course!”



“CDU Mönchengladbach
Test decree: the old town is supposed to get a Pilates-square

Around 250 people from 43 countries came to the Pilates congress in Mönchengladbach last weekend. The health instructor Joseph H. Pilates was born near the "‘thick tower’ in the Waldhausener street 20. The Northern district fractions of the CDU and the SPD want to now examine if a square nearby can be named after the inventor of the Pilates-method.”

Presenting my training manuals

A particularly special experience for me was the chance to present my books in the lobby. Many thanks to Kathy Corey!

Workshops with Elizabeth Larkam

Another highlight was getting to know Elizabeth Larkam. Her in-depth knowledge and ability to creatively combine the latest embryonic development research and fascial insights with our Pilates method was very impressive.

Eva Rinckes Pilates Biography is finally available in English

In between I also met Robert Güther, chairman of the German Pilates Association, and Eva Rincke, who met with her publisher at the conference and finally presented the English version of her Pilates biography.

Thank you

I would also like to specially praise our pilates-powers trainers, trainees and customers who helped the conference either as volunteers (Gudrun, Lidija, Olga) or as participants (Gianfranco, Ralf, Chrissoula).

A big thank you to Feli, who took over the hours on Friday and Saturday while I was absent.

And here are two ladies without whom the conference would not have been possible: Kathy Corey, who certainly took on the lion's share of the work, and Claudia Holtmanns, who supported her in many meetings with the city. Thank you!

Claudia und Kathy.jpg

And a big thank you also to all the ambassadors worldwide who made our conference so successfully known. The chart below shows 36 countries, but the number was corrected during the conference.

Diamond Ambassador.jpg

Goodbyes and new plans

After the conference the mentor group of Kathy Corey met up one more time. There is a new offer from Kathy Corery, but that is a topic for another blog post ...