Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness

Joseph Pilates

Don't expect to see a CHANGE if you don't MAKE ONE!

Joseph Pilates


Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in 1880 in Monchengladbach, a small town near Dusseldorf in Germany. As a child he was frail and suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fevers. His father, a awarded gymnast and his mother who was involved in holistic treatments, introduced him to physical exercise in order to overcome his weaknesses. He started practicing both western and eastern forms of workout like yoga and martial arts and became a formidable boxer, diver and skier. By the age of 14, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. Joseph Pilates came to believe that the “modern” life-style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health.

In 1912 he moved to England and earned a living as a professional boxer, circus-performer, and self-defence trainer at police schools and  Scotland Yard. In 1914, after the outbreak of the First World War, he was interned along with other German citizens in Lancaster. There he began teaching the other interns wrestling and self-defence. This was the moment that he intensively developed his views on the human body and health and began applying his method. An integrated, high-quality and effective fitness method, that trains the body without leaving the spirit inert. He worked as a nurse trying to help prisoners maintain their fitness and survive the difficult living conditions. It is said that those who followed his program, survived the great pandemic of 1918.

When the war came to an end, Pilates returned to Germany and trained police officers in Hamburg. At the same time he started training his own customers as well as collaborating with important experts in dance and physical exercise such as Rudolf von Laban and Mary Wigman.

In 1925, when he was offered to train members of the German army, he left his native country, disappointed with its political conditions, and emigrated to the United States. On the ship to America, he met his future wife Clara who was an educator and in 1926 they founded the first studio in New York, 8th Avenue, where they taught his method.

In the same building, there were several dance schools and rehearsal halls, and Pilates became acquainted with the famous choreographer George Balanchine.  Every summer, from 1939 to 1951, Joe and Clara went to Jacob’s Pillow, a well-known dance centre, where he met and began collaborating with famous dancers like Martha Graham, o Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis and others. Through these collaborations and influences from classical and contemporary dance, the Pilates method was refined and gained many supporters from the  show business.

In 1966 a great fire broke out in the building where the studio was housed and while Pilates was trying to rescue whatever possible he was seriously injured. It is said that this was the beginning of the end that led to his death in 1967 at the age of 87 years. After Pilates died, Clara continued to run the studio for ten years until her death in 1977. Over the course of his life, Pilates taught many students who later continued to apply his method and are known as the “Pilates Elders”. Among them Romana Kryzanowska, Carola Trier, Kathy Grant, Bob Seed, Ron Fletcher and others.

His method which he initially called “Contrology” (from “control” and Greek -λογία, -logia) using concentration to totally control body muscles, focuses on proper breathing, fosters proper spinal alignment and the body balance and strengthens the body starting from the deepest abdominal muscles.

His dream to have his method taught in every neighbourhood has now become a reality!