the origins of Pilates

Joseph Pilates

Pilates was invented by Joseph Pilates, born in Germany in 1880. As a child he had a weak and frail constitution, and devoted his time to building up his strength through sport and in doing so acquired a deep understanding of human anatomy and its movement.

During the First World War he was in prison and in the confines of this prison he started to develop his method of mat exercises. He then tried and tested these exercises on his fellow prisoners and later discovered that those who had followed his workout did not succumb to a flu epidemic, something of which he remained proud for the rest of his life.

It was whilst he was working in an English hospital, during the First World War, that he invented and adapted the series of exercises by fixing springs to the hospital beds of his immobile patients: this was the earliest invention of the equipment such as the trapeze table and reformer, which is now found in Pilates studios. On his move to the United States in the 1920's, he subsequently set to work on perfecting and refining the exercises and equipment.

His New York Pilates studio initially attracted many professional dancers, these were shortly followed by actors, sportsmen and women. However, it wasn't until the 1980's that Pilates really took off attracting a more diverse population but it is now becoming increasingly known and practised worldwide.