Joseph H. Pilates was born in Germany in 1883. His father was a gymnast and his mother a naturopath. He was a very sickly child which lead him to learning about his body and how to improve it to become physically stronger. In his youth he practiced many physical training regimes such as body building, diving, skiing, gymnastics, yoga, self-defence, dance and circus training. Drawing from the physical regimes that he practiced he later went on to develop a system of exercise which intended to strengthen the mind and body to create strength and flexibility.
In 1912, he moved to England, during the war he was interned in camps. In the camps he taught fellow camp members his exercise system which he called “Contrology”. Later, he worked as a nurse to many internees with wartime injuries and disease. He developed equipment to rehabilitate his patients using springs from beds to create resistance and movement for those bedridden. The equipment became known as reformer, the cadillac, chair, ladder and barrels.
When the war ended he moved to New York City where he met his wife Clara and opened a studio. Joseph and Clara’s reputation grew for helping injured clients such as dancers, performers and athletes. Many would attend the studio for training too.
His first students went on to teach his methods Romana Kryzanowska, Kathy Grant, Jay Grime, Kon Fletcher, Maja Wollman, Mary Bowen, Carola Treire, Bob Seed, Eve Gentry, Bruce King, Lolita San Miguel and Mary Pilates.
Joseph H. Pilates published two books related to his method. Your health: A corrective system of exercising that revolutionizes the entire field of physical education in 1934, and return to life through Contrology in 1945.
Joseph H. Pilates died at the age of 87 in New York.