History of Pilates


Pilates, prounounced puh-LAH-teez, is a program of over 500 controlled exercises that engage the mind and condition the body. It is a balanced blend of strength and flexibility training that improves posture, creates long, lean muscles (without adding bulk), improves flexibility and reduces stress.

Pilates works multiple muscle groups simultaneously through smooth, continuous motion, with a particular concentration on strengthening and stabilizing the central body core (abdominal region).

Pilates’s balanced approach ensures that no muscle group is overworked and as a result the body works as an efficient, holistic system in sport and daily activity.

Joseph Pilates was born near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880. He was a sickly child and is said to have suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Determined to overcome his physical limitations, Joe studied anatomy, Eastern and Western forms of exercise, as well as Greek and Roman fitness regimes as a teenager. Over time, he became an accomplished gymnast, boxer, skier and diver. In 1912 Joe was working in England as a self defence instructor.


In 1914 after WWI broke out Joe was interned along with other German nationals in a camp for enemy aliens. It was here that he began devising his system of original exercises that later became know as Controlology. He was transferred to another camp on The Isle of Man where he became something of a nurse and worked with many internees who suffered from wartime diseases.

He began devising equipment to rehabilitate them, taking the springs from the beds and rigging exercise apparatus for the bedridden. This setup later evolved into the Cadillac, one of the pieces of equipment in the Pilates method.

In 1923, Joe emigrated to the United States and opened a body-conditioning studio in Manhattan, New York City where he started training and rehabilitating professional dancers. Students included ballet master George Balanchine modern dance legend Martha Graham and Romana Kryzanowska teacher of Moira Merrithew (STOTT PILATES).

In 1932 he published a booklet entitled ‘Your Health’ and in 1945 ‘Return to Life Through Contrology’. Through these writings and his students, his method was passed on after his death in 1967.

Way ahead of his time, Joseph Pilates viewed fitness holistically, emphasizing the body working as a whole unit.