The History of Pilates
German-born Joseph Pilates was living in England. He was enamoured of the classical Greek ideal of a man who is balanced equally in body, mind, and spirit, and he came to believe that our modern lifestyle, bad posture, and inefficient breathing were the roots of poor health.
Joseph Pilates developed his work from a strong personal experience in fitness. Unhealthy as a child, he studied many kinds of self-improvement systems. He drew from Eastern practices and Zen Buddhism. On his way to developing the Pilates Method, Joseph Pilates studied anatomy and developed himself as a body builder, a wrestler, gymnast, boxer, skier and diver.
Joseph Pilates was placed in forced internment in England at the outbreak of WWI. While in the internment camp, he began to develop the floor exercises that evolved into what we now know as the Pilates mat work.
As time went by, Joseph Pilates began to work with rehabilitating detainees who were suffering from diseases and injuries.
It was invention born of necessity that inspired him to utilise items that were available to him, like bed springs and beer keg rings, to create resistance exercise equipment for his patients. These were the unlikely beginnings of the equipment we use today, like the reformer and the magic circ. Pilates legend has it that during the great flu epidemic of 1918, not a single one of the soldiers under his care died. He credited his technique (which he called "Contrology") for the prisoners' strength and fitness — remarkable under the less than optimum living conditions of internment camps, which were hit especially hard by this deadly flu.
After WWI, Joseph Pilates briefly returned to Germany where his reputation as a physical trainer/healer preceded him.
In Germany, he worked briefly for the Hamburg Military Police in self-defence and physical training. In 1925, he was asked to train the German army. Instead, he packed his bags and took a boat to New York City. On the boat to America, Joseph met Clara, a nurse, who would become his wife. He went on to establish his studio in New York and Clara worked with him as he evolved the Pilates method of exercise, invented the Pilates exercise equipment, and of course, trained students.
Today Pilates has many followers including dancers, athletes, physiotherapists, fitness trainers, health care providers and other professionals who appreciate the significant role exercise plays in restoring and maintaining good health.