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About Pilates

Joseph Pilates The Story Many people know what Pilates is, but have no idea where it came from. Joseph Pilates, a German national, developed the body-mind exercise system we now know in the early 20th century. Combining movements with concentration and breathing, the Pilates Method (then called "Contrology") was immediately adopted by the dance community, especially by those who were recovering from injuries. In his New York studio, Joseph Pilates passed on his unique teaching philosophy to several protogos. These students, or now known as "elders" as they are popularly called, went on to successful teaching careers of their own, and at least five of them remain active within the Pilates community.

Born in 1880 in Düsseldorf Germany, Joseph Pilates was a sickly child and suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever as a child. His parents seeking remedy from these ailments, he was encouraged to do exercise, body-building and sports.

By age 14, his physical self-improvement had been so successful that he worked as a model. In 1912, Pilates moved to England, where he was hired to teach self-defence to the police force at Interned as an prisoner of World War I in the Isle of Man. Pilates taught fellow captives his system of exercise; he even used a hospital bed with springs and straps (the start to his famous exercise machines) to help patients recover while still recovering.

When Pilates returned to Germany after his release, his body-conditioning method made great headway in prominent dance circles. But Pilates did not like what Germany had become so in 1926, Pilates immigrated to the US and New York by ship. En route, he met his future wife Clara. Together, they opened a fitness studio in a building that they shared with the New York City Ballet.

In addition to teaching, Pilates published a book and invented various exercise equipment.

By the early 1950s, dancers had become Joseph and Clara's most ardent and loyal followers. Legendary City Ballet founder and artistic director George Balanchine was so impressed with his neighbours' work that he entrusted Pilates to teach his movement exercise to his young dancers. According to a 1956 issue of a dance publication, most dancers in New York had by then been instructed or influenced by Pilates. Joseph Pilates died in 1967, following health problems when he tried to save his studio equipment in a fire and Clara taught and ran the studio until 1970. She passed away in 1977.