Who is Joseph Pilates?
JOSEPH H. PILATES
Founder of the Pilates Method of Exercise
Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in 1880 in Düsseldorf, Germany to the parents of Greek and German descent. A childhood fraught with asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. He was taunted by other children and was unable to defend himself, which inspired his journey to fitness and health. He strengthened his body through exercise which included gymnastics, yoga, and ancient Greek and Roman physical regimens. By the age of fourteen, he was posing for anatomical charts. In 1912 he migrated to England where he worked as a boxer, a circus performer and a self-defense trainer. after WWI broke out, he was interned in an "enemy alien camp" in Lancaster. It was here that he began to develop the Pilates Method of Exercise known then as Contrology. He was then transferred to another camp in The Isle of Man where he worked as a nurse to very sick and bedridden patients. It was here that he developed his exercise equipment using bed springs rigged to patients’ limbs to provide resistance for the remarkable exercises he created. The impact of his efforts was dramatic and resulted in non-ambulatory patients returning more quickly to mobility and health than ever expected.
At the end of the war he migrated to the United States, meeting his future wife Clara on the same ship and in 1926 they opened the first Pilates Studio* in New York City. Famous choreographers and dancers studied with Joe for their training and rehab work (George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Martha Graham). Additionally, many movie stars studied with him as well (Vivien Leigh, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Katherine Hepburn). He continued to develop and refine other types of complimentary and integrative apparatus over the course of his long life. In January 1966, there was a fire in his building. Joe returned to his studio to fight the fire, but fell through the burnt out floorboards and remained hanging for some time until rescued by firefighters. He later died in October 1967, at the age of 87, due to complications attributed to this incident. Clara continued to run the studio for the next 10 years until her death in 1976. A longtime teacher and student, Romana Kryzanowska, took over the business and dedicated her life to teaching Joe's work.
‘Pilates’, as his work is popularly known nowadays, has proven itself for over eighty years as an incredibly effective way of conditioning the mind and body for the maintenance of physical health and wellness. Joseph Pilates died in 1967 but he left an incredible legacy that has enhanced the lives of many more people than in his own lifetime.
"Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. In order to achieve happiness, it is imperative to gain mastery of your body. If at the age of 30 you are stiff and out of shape you are old. If at the age of 60 you are supple and strong, then you are young." - Joseph Pilates