History of Pilates – Joseph H. Pilates (1880-1967)
German born Joseph Pilates was living in England, when he was interned as an ‘enemy alien’ during the outbreak of World War 1. Whilst working as a nurse orderly in the camp hospital where he was interned, he began to develop the unique system of exercises that evolved into what we now know as Pilates. Joseph Pilates used springs and pulleys attached to the bed frames of hospitalised internees to help them mobilise and become stronger whilst confined to their beds.
After the war, Joseph Pilates moved to America and set up a studio in the heart of New York’s dance district to teach the method that he called ‘Contrology’. He quickly gained a reputation amongst the dance and sports elite who were attracted to the grace, strength and rehabilitative benefits of his technique.
Joseph Pilates passed away in 1967 at age the age of 87. He had maintained a fit physique throughout his life, and many photos show that he was in remarkable physical condition in his older years. His one regret was that his system of exercise was never truly recognised by the medical profession during his lifetime.
After his death, his wife Clara continued to teach at the studio and a handful of clients kept the method alive amongst the dance commnity. Alan Herdman brought the method to the United Kingdom in the 1970s and since then, Pilates has continued to evolve in line with modern biomechanical principles.
Although Pilates has been taught for over eighty years, it is only in more recent times that its benefits have finally been recognised by Doctors, Physiotherapists and other health professionals all around the world, thus ensuring the legacy left by Joseph Pilates continues to live on.