Joseph Pilates

Joe - PHoto by I C Rapoport at

Photo by I C Rapoport at

The founder of the Pilates method was Joseph Pilates. Joe was born in 1883 in Monchengladbach, Germany.  He overcame fairly challenging ailments as a child (asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever) to grow into a person who challenged himself to improve physically and mentally.

Joe’s list of careers early in life included gymnastics, bodybuilding, professional boxing, circus performer and even as a self-defense trainer for Scotland Yard.

During World War I he began developing and refining what would be considered the pre-cursor to the Pilates method, a comprehensive system of exercises he called “Contrology”.

In 1925 Joe migrated to the United States and founded a studio in New York City. It was here that he taught students as late as the 1960’s.

His method focused on the use of the mind and body in harmony to keep the body balanced and supported properly. He combined this with an awareness of breath, proper alignment of the spine and strengthening of the core muscles.

Pilates’ exercise routines were renown for building flexibility, strength and stamina. Many professional dance and performing arts companies would send their students to Pilates for training and rehabilitation.

Joseph lived a full and long life writing several books on exercise and health, invented numerous devices and held over 26 patents. He died in 1967 at the age of 83.

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