what is pilates?

As a young boy in Germany, Joseph H. Pilates suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. But when a doctor gave him an old anatomy book, he decided to do something about his body. He studied the book, memorizing all of the muscles and how they moved. He then studied and zealously followed exercise regimens of both the East and West, and by the time he was 14, he developed his body into such peak shape that he posed for anatomy books himself.

When WWI broke out, Joseph, who had moved to England, was interned along with other German nationals. In the internment camps, the Pilates Method (originally called Contrology) formed, and Joseph applied his methods to those in need of rehabilitation. He added resistance equipment, designed from old bed springs, to his repertoire, and had great success.

After the war, he briefly moved back to Germany, but left when the political scene grew harrowing. He fled to New York, where he met and married Clara. Together, they opened a “Contrology” studio in New York City in the same building that housed several dance studios and rehearsal rooms. This is where Pilates, as it became known, took off in the dance community, and where Joseph and Clara happily taught for more than 40 years.

Pilates became famous outside of the dancers’ world when one of Joseph’s original students opened a studio in Beverly Hills in the late 1980’s. Stars soon discovered the secrets of Joseph Pilates, and where the stars go, the media soon follows.