“Contrology”, or the The Pilates Method, as we know it today, evolved from German-born Joseph Pilates childhood efforts to better his asthmatic lungs and sickly, weak body through exercise.
There are many fascinating histories of Joseph Pilates available, most citing his study and participation in various modes of exercise including boxing, yoga, gymnastics, bodybuilding, diving, and Kung Fu. Joseph Pilates was versatile and traveled as a young man, working as a professional boxer, circus-performer, and self-defense trainer at police schools and even Scotland Yard. Joseph Pilates developed a life-long interest in the natural, free-flowing movement of animals and children. Some of the exercises that we still use today in Pilates classes are based on his observations of animal movement including Elephant, Monkey, Snake, and Seal. Joseph Pilates used his knowledge and exercise experience to rehabilitate and strengthen injured prisoners during World War I.
Joseph Pilates immigrated to the United States around 1926. He settled in New York where he had great success helping injured dancers return to their professional careers, as well as training boxers and every day people who walked in to his studio.
Joseph Pilates and his wife, Clara, spent their lives developing their unique exercises integrating mind and body working together for optimum health. Joseph Pilates was the inventor of the specialty equipment he used to help his clients perform his method, ingeniously using springs and pulley to leverage his clients in to the desired positions. Joseph Pilates wrote two books to explain his philosophies and illustrate his exercises, “Return to Life Through Contrology,” and ”Your Health.”
Joseph Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 83.