Joseph Pilates (1880-1967)
Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. As a frail child, he suffered from Rickets, Asthma and Rheumatic Fever and that led him to a lifetime?s dedication to physical fitness. He studied gymnastics,?body-building, skiing, yoga and more and as a teenager, he was in good enough physical condition to pose for anatomical charts
Pilates left Germany for England in 1912, and continued to develop his system of exercise whilst interned during WWI because of his German citizenship. The origins of the modern day “Reformer”, with its spring resistance and sliding carriage, are to be found in equipment that Joseph Pilates developed during that period to enable bed-ridden patients to continue to exercise and develop strength and flexibility, working with springs taken from their beds.
After the war Pilates came back to Germany, and his method gained favor in the dance community, but after refusing teaching it to the German army, he decided to immigrate to America. During the voyage he met his future wife Clara, who became his partner in all aspects. They settled in New York City and opened their studio at Eighth Avenue. His relationship with the American dance world grew rapidly, and he worked with George Balanchine, the NYC Ballet, Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, and more. At the New York Herald Tribune noted in 1964, “in dance classes around the United States, hundreds of young students limber up daily with an exercise they know as a Pilates, without knowing that the word has a capital P, and a living, right-breathing namesake.”
Pilates continued to teach and develop equipment and exercises with Clara until his death in 1967 at age of 87. Joseph Pilates left no will and had designated no line of succession for the “Pilates” work to carry on. Nevertheless, his work was to remain. Currently, the Pilates Method is used internationally by individuals at all levels of fitness as well as by dance companies, Broadway shows, sports teams, and more. Millions throughout the world are practicing Pilates, and numbers continue to grow.