Joseph H. Pilates was born in 1883, in Germany. His father was a prize-winning gymnast, and his mother worked as a naturopath.
Pilates was a sickly child and suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever and went on to dedicate his entire life to improving his physical strength.
Besides skiing frequently, he began studied body building, yoga, gymnastics and kick boxing also the movements of animals. By the age of 14, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. Pilates came to believe that the “modern life style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. He ultimately devised a series of exercises and training-techniques and engineered all the equipment (he was a great inventor), specifications, and tuning required to teach his methods properly.
Pilates was originally a gymnast, diver, and bodybuilder, but when he moved to England in 1912, he earned a living as a professional boxer and circus performer and worked at police schools as a self-defence trainer. During the first world war he was interned on the Isle of Man. He trained his fellow inmates in fitness and exercises. For those that were bed bound he used the springs of their beds so that they could continue to exercise. It is said that these inmates survived the 1918 flu pandemic due to their good physical shape.
After World War I, he returned to Germany but was uncomfortable with the political situation there so left his native country in about 1925 and emigrated to the United States. On the ship to America, he met his future wife Clara. The couple founded a studio in New York City and directly taught and supervised their students well into the 1960s. His method he called Contrology. It focuses attention on core postural muscles that help keep the human body balanced and provide support for the spine. It encourages the mind to control the muscles.
Situated near Broadway their studio attracted members of the local dance and performing-arts community of New York. His exercise regimen built flexibility, strength and stamina. He produced several disciples and over time his methods have been adjusted and so you will find that Pilates teachers teach in different ways. Since the 1960s Pilates has become popular with the general population and research has been done to prove it’s effectiveness. Some of the original exercises have been modified and other variations included.
Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 83 in New York.