History of Pilates

Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. As a child he suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, and it was these childhood illnesses that drove him to discover a method of overcoming them.He focused on sport as a way to build physical strength, and became a skilled gymnast,skier,boxer and wrestler.At the same time he became passionate about human physiology and anatomy as well as studying Eastern techniques of Yoga and Tai Chi.It was a combinationof all these interests that led him to devise Contrology or Pilates as we know it today.joseph_pilates_portrait

In 1912, Joseph moved to England,where he was a boxer and a circus performer .The outbreak of war in 1914 ibetween Germany and England interupted his career and he was imprisoned as a German national along with fellow country men.However it was here that he fully developed his own method of fitness.

Confined in the prison camp he devised exercises to keep himself and his fellow internees healthy. He used beds and other pieces of furniture to construct prototypes of the equipment seen in pilates studios today. He later claimed these exercises protected the internees from the flu epidemic that killed thousands in Britain, and other illnesses that often resulted from living in confined crowded conditions.

At the release from the camp at the end of the war he returned to Germany,where he continued to develop his method.An influential man in modern dance , Rudolf von Laban incorporated some of Pilates’ exercises into his teaching.

His technique attracted not only dancers, but aso the Hamburg police force, whom he spent time training.In 1926,when he was ordered rather than asked to train the new German army, he imidiately left for America.
On his voyage to America he met a nurse,Clara, with whom he spent the journey discussing health and the importance of keeping the body healthy. By the end of the journey they decided to open a physical fitness studio together, which they did in the same building as the New York Ballet. Later they married.

As in Germany, Pilates attracted many of the top dancers because his method complimented the dancers traditional training.Soon actors,actresses and sports people, as well as wealthy socialites,were hurrying to Pilate’s studio to discover his unique strengthening exercises performed on the equally unique equipment.