History of Pilates

Joseph Hubertus Pilates 1880-1967

joseph pilatesBorn in Dusseldorf, Germany, to parents of Greek and German ancestry, he came to believe that our modern life-style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing were the roots of poor health. His father was a prize-winning gymnast of Greek origin and his mother a naturopath of German origin. Joseph suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever as a youth. To overcome the effects of poor health, as well as the taunting of other kids, he studied body building, diving, skiing, boxing, and gymnastics.

Pilates moved to England in 1912 and worked as a boxer, circus performer, and a self defense trainer of English detectives. When he was interned at a camp in Lancaster with other Germans as “enemy aliens” during World War I, Pilates spent this time to further develop his exercise techniques.

In 1926, he emigrated to New York and established a studio with his wife Clara teaching his exercises to dancers, including Martha Graham and George Balanchine, as well as actors and athletes. He also invented several pieces of exercise apparatus by attaching springs to hospital beds for immobilized patients.

“It is the mind that shapes the body.”—J. H. Pilates