German born Joseph H. Pilates was living in England, working as a circus performer and boxer, when he was placed in forced internment in England at the outbreak of WWI. While in the internment camp, he began to develop the floor exercises that evolved into what we know now as Pilates mat work. There, Joseph Pilates began to work with rehabilitating detainees who were suffering from diseases and injuries.
It was invention born of necessity that inspired him to utilize items that were available to him, like bed springs and beer keg rings, to create resistance exercises equipment for his patients. These were the unlikely beginnings of the equipment we use today, like the reformer and magic circle.
Joseph Pilates called his work Contrology.. He defined Contrology as “the comprehensive integration of body, mind and spirit”.
Pilates was a sickly child and suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever, and he dedicated his entire life to improving physical strength. He drew from Eastern practices and Zen Buddhism, and he 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 bodybuilder, wrestler, boxer, skier, gymnast and diver.
In 1925, he moved to New York where he established a studio and evolved the Pilates method of exercise, invented the Pilates equipment we use today and trained students. Joseph’s studio put him in close proximity to a number of dance studios, which led to his discovery by the dance community. His exercise regimen built flexibility, strength and stamina.
In the 1970’s, Hollywood celebrities discovered Pilates, and where the stars go, media follows. In the late 1980’s, the media began to cover Pilates extensively. The public took notice and the Pilates business took off.