The Pilates method, originally known as “Contrology”, was created by Joseph Hubertus Pilates who was born in 1880 in Monchengladbach, Germany. Joseph was passionate about body conditioning his entire life. He suffered from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever as a child, yet was determined to heal himself and become strong. By studying anatomy and practicing innovative exercises in a disciplined way, he was finally able to enjoy improved health and sustainable wellness.
By the age of 34, Joseph H. Pilates was a talented skier, diver, gymnast, and boxer. He was living in England at the outbreak of World War I and was placed in an internment camp along with other German nationals in Lancaster. While there, he gave lessons to other prisoners using his exercises and shared his ideas about fitness that were developed with his study of Zen, Yoga and ancient Roman and Greek methods of conditioning. Today, these original exercises are called “Pilates Mat-Work”.
He also developed ways to help patients in hospitals recover from their injuries by devising a system of springs attached to their beds, providing assistance and resistance while exercising. The idea of using spring tension in this manner led to many of his equipment designs that are still used today. Joseph and his wife Clara moved to New York City in 1926 where they opened their first studio.
For more information about the practice of Pilates and its history, please visit The Pilates Library