Joseph Hubertus Pilates

“A few well designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.” -Joseph Pilates

Joseph PilatesOn December 8, 1880 Joseph Pilates was born in Monchengladbach, Germany.  As a child he was inflicted with asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever- Pilates was determined to do all he could to make his body strong and healthy.  He studied   yoga, boxing, body building, gymnastics, skiing, diving… even ancient Greek and Roman fitness regimes.  He overcome his childhood ailments and by age 14 he was posing for anatomical charts!  This early success combined with the influences of his parents- his father was a gymnast and his mother a naturopathy would inspire Pilates to pursue his studies of movement and wellness, and  create his original system of movement which he called “Contrology”.

His work in Germany during WWI would help Pilates further develop his method.  He devised equipment to help rehabilitate the bedridden- using springs from beds to create resistance and build strength.  He taught self defense and physical conditioning to the Hamburg Military police as well as private clients, and continued his studies in meditation, modern dance, homeopathy and holistic medicine, and breath work.

Joseph Pilates arrived in New York City in 1926.  He met his future wife Clara en route to America- she would become an integral part in developing new techniques and exercises and helping to teach the method.  Joe began working at a boxers training gym in NYC, and by the early 1930s he and Clara had taken over the gym.  Word of Pilates skill working with injuries spread and many dancers started to work with Pilates for training and rehabilitation.  Pilates wrote two books: Your Health and Return to Life, and worked hard to promote his method- desiring that his method be universally adopted and taught  in schools.

Pilates died in October 1967 at the age of 87- possible complications from a fire related incident at his gym in NYC were suspected as the cause.  Clara continued to teach and run the studio until 1970, and passed away in1976.