Joseph Pilates was born Dec 8, 1880 in the German town Monchengladbach. His father was a prize winning gymnast and his mother a naturopath.
As a young child, he suffered from rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever.

He developed his work from his personal life experiences and fitness.                                                                                                                                    

Joseph Pilates was determined to overcome his childhood ailments he practiced many physical activities,                                                                            

bodybuilding, gymnastics, skiing, and diving.

         Joseph Pilates at 54


Joseph Pilates studied many kinds of self-improvement systems.

He drew from Eastern practices and Zen Buddhism, 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. On the boat to America, Joseph met Clara, a nurse, who would become his wife.

He went on to establish his studio in New York and Clara worked with him as he evolved the Pilates method of exercise he called Contrology

Joseph invented the Pilates exercise equipment, and of course, trained students.

Joseph Pilates taught in New York from 1926 to 1966.

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.

This first generation of teachers who trained directly with Joseph Pilates is often referred to as the Pilates Elders.

Some committed themselves to passing along Joseph Pilates work exactly as he taught it.

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. He had maintained a fit physique throughout his life, and many photos show that he was in remarkable physical condition in his older years.

He is also said to have had a flamboyant personality. He smoked cigars, liked to party, and wore his exercise briefs wherever he wanted (even on the streets of New York).

 It is said that he was an intimidating, though deeply committed, instructor. Clara Pilates continued to teach and run the studio for another 10 years after Joseph Pilate’s death





Subpages (1): The Pilates Elders