Joseph Hubertus Pilates

"The acquirement and enjoyment of physical well-being, mental calm and spiritual peace are priceless to their possessors…"

Joseph Pilates

Born in Germany 1880, Joseph was a sickly child, but was determined to overcome his physical weaknesses, so educated himself in anatomy, gymnastics, yoga and the martial arts and became a circus performer and accomplished gymnast. 


He emigrated to England in 1912 but due to his German citizenship was interred as a Prisoner Of War.  In the POW camps he helped with the rehabilitation of the injured soldiers by using bedframes and bed springs to create an apparatus which would enable them to increase mobility and strength against resistance.  Joseph would go onto to use elements of this creation when inventing the reformer.    His original designs of the reformer, cadillac and wunda chair have changed little since their creation.


Post war, Joseph moved to America and met his wife Clara with whom he opened up his exercise studio in New York where he taught what is now known as Pilates.  He worked with professional dancers, gymnasts and athletes who all benefitted from his methods.  By 1960 his method, which he called Contrology was beginning to become popular within the wider population. He described Contrology as the "complete coordination of body, mind and spirit".  "Contrology is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work". 


Joseph died in 1967, but thanks to his pupils who continued to teaching his method, by the 1990s people started to recognise the physical and mental benefits of Joseph's methods, and Pilates exploded into the fitness industry.  Today, Pilates is recognised not only as an effective exercise method used by professional athletes but the exercises also play a role in rehabilitation programmes.  Many of Joseph's original exercises remain unchanged, but some have evolved to incorporate today's anatomical knowledge and lifestyle changes.