Joe Pilates was born near Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880. He suffered many ailments as a child which caused him to begin the journey to fitness and health. He studied many different self-improvement systems from Eastern practices to Yoga and Zen Buddhism. On his way to developing the Pilates Method, he also studied anatomy and developed himself as a body builder, wrestler, gymnast, boxer, skier and diver. By the time he was 14, he had achieved such remarkable results, he was modeling for anatomy charts.

In 1912, Joe moved to England. When WWI broke out, he was interned at a camp for German nationals. It was here that he began devising his movement system, originally called “Contrology”. He was transferred to another camp where he began working with internees suffering from wartime disease. He then began devising equipment to rehabilitate them. In 1918, a flu epidemic swept the world, killing millions of people, many in England. None of Joe’s followers succumbed even though the camps were the hardest hit!

After the war, Joe briefly returned to Germany where his reputation as a physical trainer and healer preceded him. During this time he continued to create equipment, saying, “You see, it resists your movements in just the right way so those inner muscles really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it.” Unhappy with the political direction of Germany, he left in 1925. On the boat to America, Joe met his wife Clara, a nurse. Upon arrival in New York City, they opened their exercise studio and went to work sharing their method with a variety of clients. The studio was in close proximity to several dance studios, which led to his discovery by the dance community and made it such an intrinsic part of many dancers’ training and rehabilitation program. Carola Trier, a longtime student of Joe’s and teacher of his work said, “The method emphasizes restoring the body to true balance, ease and economy of movement and a channeled flow of energy.”

Joseph Pilates wrote several books, including Return to Life through Contrology and Your Health, and he was a prolific inventor, with over 26 patents cited. He died in 1967 at the age of 87 in New York.