History of Pilates

Joseph H. Pilates was apparently born in Mönchengladbach in Germany, in 1880. His father, a prize-winning gymnast, of Greek ancestry; his German mother worked as a naturopath. Joseph was a sickly child who suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, it is thought he dedicated his entire life to improving his physical strength. Joe began studying body-building, yoga and gymnastics, and by the age of 14 was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. During World War I, he was interned with other German nationals. During this time Joe refined his ideas and trained other internees in his system of exercise. He rigged springs to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance, an innovation that led to his later equipment designs. An influenza epidemic struck England in 1918, killing thousands of people, but not a single one of Joe’s trainees died. This, he claimed, testified to the effectiveness of his system.ht that his drive and determination to overcome these ailments led him to


In 1926, Joe emigrated to the United States of America. During the voyage he met Clara, whom he later married. Joe and Clara opened a fitness studio in New York, sharing an address with the New York City Ballet. Here they both taught and supervised their students well into the 1960s. His method, which he and Clara originally called “Contrology”, related to encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles. It focuses attention on core postural muscles that help keep the human body balanced and provide support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine, and strengthen the deep torso and abdominal muscles.

In 1932 Pilates published a booklet called ‘Your Health’ and followed this with another called ‘Return to Life through Contrology’ in 1945. Through these writings and his students, his method was passed on after his death in 1967 at the age of 87. His method of exercise was called Contrology. It was only after his death that it became known as Pilates.
The development of pilates The beauty of Pilates is that it is constantly evolving and current biomechanical thinking is integrated into classes and teachings by Pilates instructors. However, the roots of the technique, the philosophy and movement patterns designed by Joseph Pilates over 70 years ago are today still taught, as well as an evolved form.


“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. In order to achieve happiness, it is imperative to gain mastery of your body. If at the age of 30 you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If at 60 you are supple and strong then you are young.”   Joseph Pilates