Joseph Humbert Pilates was born near Dusseldorf, Germany, around 1880.
He was a weak and sickly child suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever.
Determined to overcome his aliments and strengthen his body he began to study anatomy as well as Eastern and Wastern form of exercise.He incorporated into his exercise system various aspects of Yoga, Zen, gymnastics, martial arts, wrestling, acrobatics and ancient Greek and Roman physical regimens. Elements of the teaching techniques of F.M.Alexander and movement theories of Rudolf Von Laban influenced Pilates too.
Pilates was over all enamored of the ancient classic Greek "ideal man" who was equally schooled in cognitive thinking, philosophy and history, but also maintained a finely tuned, athletic body.
From that learning he developed a series of floor routines to help improve his health, becoming a competent gymnast,diver and skier.
During the first World War he was interned in England with other German nationals. In this time he developed his techniques of physical fitness futher by teaching his fellow internees. During the last part of the war he served as an orderly in a hospital where he worked with patients unable to walk. Here he started experimenting with various apparatus and he made a few from bed springs. These, which provided resistence and were perfect for his exercises, leaded to the development of his famous piece of equipment known as the "Cadillac" that is still in use today in many Pilates Studio. Pilates developed movements for floor or mat workout as well.
In 1926 Joseph Pilates emigrated to the USA.During the voyage he met Clara,whom he later married.Joe and Clara opened a "Body-conditioning studio" in New York,sharing the address with the N.Y.City Ballet .By the early 1960s they could count among their clients many N.Y. dancers.
Pilates become popular outside N.Y. as well and was first introduced to the U.K. by Alan Herdman in 1970.
The workout thought to those in the internment camp and in the hospitals become the basis of today's popular Pilates movement, a worldwide phenomenon with over 12 million people practicing. And the number continue to grow.
J.Pilates wrote two books related to the Pilates method:
"Return to Life through Contrology"(1928).
"Your Health" a corrective system of exercising that revolutionized the entire field of physical education (1934).