The History of Pilates

"The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning develops the body uniformly, corrects posture, restores vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit." - Joseph Pilates


Joseph Pilates was born in 1880, Monchengladbach, Germany. He grew up suffering from serious health problems. Through determination to overcome these, he studied various exercise regimens, increasing his knowledge, and designed an exercise programme involving historical research and beliefs dating back to Greeks and Romans. Growing into adulthood, this phenomenal method of exercise helped him to become an accomplished body builder, boxer, diver, skier and gymnast, leaving his childhood ailments in the past. 



At the age of 32 he moved to England. As a professional boxer he taught self-defence with the police force of Scotland Yard. 

When World War1broke out Joseph was interned in a British camp a long side other German Nationals.

Observing weaknesses and misalignments of the body and understanding the need to re-educate it to prevent repetitive injuries, he began to train many interns in need of serious rehabilitation, developing his skills further.


He believed physical fitness and positive mental attitude combined, created a wellbeing.




Joseph returned to Germany after his release from the British Camp. However, Joseph made a clear decision to leave Germany when German officials asked him to teach his fitness method to the army. 



In the early 1920’s he travelled to the U.S.A meeting Clara, his future wife. Together in New York City 1926 they established a studio shared with the New York City Ballet. He taught Contrology, his named method of exercise, which gave popularity amongst dancers, gymnasts and athletes. At the beginning of 1960s, George Ballanchine studied at Joseph’s studio, and invited him to instruct his young ballerinas at the New York City Ballet.


In 1945 he published his first book 'Return to life through Contrology '.

The original name Contrology was changed to Pilates after his death in 1967 and was introduced to the U.K. by Alan Herdman in the early 1970’s.



The traditional and contemporary approaches to mat Pilates.



A traditional approach to Pilates promotes the original work as Joseph Pilates taught it. The exact exercises and ideas that Joseph Pilates and his wife Clara taught and passed on to Romana Krysanowska - True Pilates New York. There is a proven track record of authenticity.

Clients who realised the benefits of Joseph Pilates’s method and attended this type of Pilates were dancers, gymnasts and athletes in particular.



A contemporary approach to Pilates adapts the original ideas of its founder for the general population. Adapted and modified versions of the original exercises are also now used widely by osteopaths, personal trainers and physiotherapists. The original six principles have three more, added in recent years. In general, a Contemporary approach to Pilates involves updated methods, which may be safer as they incorporate new research on kinesiology and exercise science. With its generous amount of adaptations and modifications available for each exercise, the general public, of all ages and levels attend Contemporary Pilates. It has become very popular.



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