Pilates History

About Pilates – Joseph Pilates

Unhealthy as a child, Joseph Pilates studied many kinds of self-improvement systems. He drew from Eastern practices and was inspired by the ancient Greek ideal of man perfected in development of body, mind and spirit. 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.

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-defense 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. He went on to establish his studio in New York as he evolved the Pilates Method of exercise, invented the Pilates exercise equipment, and of course, trained students.

During that time, he trained a number of students who not only applied his work to their own lives but became teachers of the Pilates Method themselves. Some committed themselves to passing along Joseph Pilates’s work exactly as he taught it. This approach is called “classical style” Pilates. Other students went on to integrate what they learned with their own research in anatomy and exercise sciences.

Joseph Pilates’ New York studio put him in close proximity to a number of dance studios, which led to his “discovery” by the dance community. Many dancers and well-known persons of New York depended on Pilates Method training for the strength and grace it developed in the practitioner, as well as for its rehabilitative effects. Until exercise science caught up with the Pilates exercise principles in the 1980s, and the surge of interest in Pilates that we have today got underway, it was chiefly dancers and elite athletes who kept Joseph Pilates’ work alive.

Joseph Pilates passed away in 1967 at age 87. He had maintained a fit physique throughout his life, and many photos show that he was in remarkable physical condition in his older years.

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