History of Pilates

Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880 to a gymnast father and Naturopath mother.  While overcoming various childhood ailments (asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever) he engaged in many physical activities such as gymnastics, skiing and later boxing.  After the breakout of WWI, he was interned in an enemy camp in England with other Germans.  While there he began to formulate his exercise regimen which he named Contrology to aid his fellow “campers” in maintaining their health and strength.  Ingenious and clever when it came to devising equipment, he removed springs and poles from the hospital beds to construct his earliest rehabilitative apparatus.  He helped many and was considered a legend. After the war he became involved in the “new” holistic approach to health and also met various dancers and movement specialists.  He immigrated to New York City in 1925 perhaps to pursue boxing or simply flee an unsettled Germany.  In the years that followed he met his wife Clara, a nurse, and they began training boxers and later dancers who heard of his expertise in injury prevention and rehabilitation.  As the dancing community embraced the Pilates method their client base grew to include socialites and other performers.  During the 1950’s, he lectured, wrote books, sold equipment and tried, to no avail, to have his method embraced by the medical mainstream who he thought gave little credence to preventive medicine. The Pilates method however continued quietly as he and Clara trained teachers that eventually ventured across the country to begin their own studios and spread their knowledge about the method.  Joseph and Clara continued their life in NY until a fire ravaged the 8th Ave studio.  He survived the fire but about a year later died at the age of 87.  Clara operated the studio into the 1970’s.  She died in 1976. Pilates is now a unique worldwide mind-body exercise regimen that has millions of devotees!photo