About Joe Pilates

Pilates is named after its inventor, Joseph Pilates. Mr. Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. The story goes as this: as a child, Joe was very sickly, had asthma, rheumatic fever and rickets. As one can well imagine, he was taunted by the other children for his physical weaknesses. The tauntings, in addition to the weaknesses, gave Joe great incentive to overcome the physical challenges he was faced with. He began to do exercises based on yoga, Zen, and Greek/Roman fitness methods. He did indeed overcome his physical challenges enough to pose for anatomical charts by the age of 14.

Pilates style of exercises began early in Germany when Joe was a boy, but evolved over time in many ways. After becoming strong through his own exercise regimes, Mr. Pilates went on to become a boxer, diver, and gymnast. While he was training in England for boxing, World War I broke out and Joe was interned in England for a year. While in camp, he began to train others also interned. Not only did these interns emerge stronger from the training, but none of them succumbed to an influenza epidemic that killed thousands of people.

Mr. Pilates also fashioned rehabilitation devices out of bed frames and bed springs to help the disabled and incarcerated prisoners recover from war injuries. One of these contraptions turned into what we know today as the reformer.

Mr. Pilates and his training methods became very important to the German Army as he was asked to train them. His way of declining the offer was to immigrate to the United States in 1926. He met his wife to be, Clara, a nurse on the way over, and they together opened a studio in New York City. The Pilates Method quickly caught the attention of the dance community, and the techniques rapidly became an integral part of dance training.