Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. As a child he suffered from debilitating physical ailments including rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever. His drive to overcome these limitations led him to pursue a life devoted to fitness, both physical and mental. At the young age of 22 Joseph traveled to England as a circus performer, but with the onset of World War 1 was detained as a German national in an internment camp. During this time Pilates began teaching his fitness regime to the others in the camp, and finding ways to adapt his program for those individuals who were sick or disabled. He found that by attaching springs to the beds of these sick and injured individuals they were able to keep up their strength and recover faster. This inspired Joseph to build his own fitness equipment which we now know as the trapeze table aka the Cadillac, the reformer, and the wunda chair.
After the war, Joseph Pilates returned to his home in Germany and was invited by the German government to train the newly formed army. However, realizing the implications this could mean for him, Pilates fled to America where he met and married his wife Clara. By 1926 they had set up their first studio in New York City, with Clara playing an integral role in teaching what Pilates called Contrology. Clients ranging from socialites, circus performers, athletes, and dancers greatly benefitted from Pilates’ fitness program whether done for rehabilitation purposes, or to increase performance ability. Joseph Pilates was a true pioneer in the fitness industry, developing over 600 exercises to be done on equipment he designed himself, all in an effort to achieve complete mental and physical health. As Pilates wrote “physical fitness is the first requisite to happiness.” We couldn’t agree more!