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Who is Joseph Pilates and what is the Pilates System?

Joesph Pilates was born in 1883 in Germany. He had health problems as a kid; Rheumatic fever, asthma, rickets and had a terrible respiratory system. As he got older, he started exploring ways to help strengthen himself, his mind and body. He was inspired by the Greeks who obsessed over the ideal man with a strong symmetrical body and a sound mind.

As a young man, he enjoyed sports such as fencing, boxing, wrestling and gymnastics. Despite his sickly childhood, his ideas of fitness, health and harmony of mind and body was his passion.


Joe was in England touring with a boxer when WWI broke out and since he was a German, he was held as a resident alien in an internment camp on the Isle of Man for the duration of the war.


During his time there, he lead movement classes to his fellow detainees in a daily exercise program. According to Joe, when the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 broke out, non of the inmates who participated in his daily exercise program got sick.


Joe got the attention of camp leaders and they promoted him as an orderly at a hospital for wounded soldiers. He had about 30 men whom he cared for and was put to the task of rehabbing the men back from their injuries. You have to remember at that time, western medicine was not like it is today so for those injured soldiers, what was there for them was surgery and morphine. With that came extended bed reset along with muscular atrophy, loss of aerobic capacity and a weakened immune system.

Joe began to move the men in their beds and had them do exercises. It was a lot of work for a single person to physically move his patients everyday. He soon got the idea of attaching springs to the patients beds so that they could start working themselves out under Joe's supervision, thus his first invention was born, the Cadillac. He also invented other Pilates apparatuses.

After he was released, he returned to Germany where is he was soon approached by the "brown shirts" (who were to become the Nazi party) to train their police force. He fled for the United States by ship where he met his soon-to-be-wife Clara, a nurse. She played a very important role in his life and in the development of the Pilates System.


They arrived in New York City in 1926 and settled in a small apartment in the same building as the New York City Ballet on 8th Avenue and started teaching what Joe named "Contrology."


Joe was also an inventor and made his own fitness apparatuses such as the Universal Reformer, the Wunda chair, the Cadillac, the Ladder Barrel, the Spine Corrector and many other beneficial exercise equipment that is still used till today.

His dream was to teach Contrology, to the world; to children, universities, and to the military. He was unfortunately too far ahead of his time and ended up teaching small groups and to a handful of primary teachers who then went on in teaching his system. Joseph Pilates died on October 9th, 1967.

Joeseph wrote Return to Life through Contrology and states that his system develops "not only muscles of the body, suppleness of the limbs, and functioning of vital organs and endocrine glands; it also clarifies the mind and develops the will."


The Pilates exercise system is designed to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and improve overall health. The 9 Principles of Pilates outlines what is means to be physically fit and how to attain and maintain a balanced, developed body with a sound mind.


The 9 principles are a life long practice to fully understand, how they interconnect, and how those same principles plays a critical role in peoples lives and overall well being.


The Pilates system also includes exercises for every party of the body and application for every kind of activity and can be practiced by children and adolescence to the weekend warrior, pregnant women, triathlete to the elderly and or disabled.


Over 10 million people are now practicing Pilates in the U.S. and the numbers are growing every year.