Who Was Joseph Pilates?

Joseph H. Pilates was born in Germany, in 1880. A sickly child who suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, he dedicated his entire life to becoming physically stronger. Joe studied bodybuilding and gymnastics and by the age of 14 was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. In 1912, he moved to England earning a living as a boxer, circus performer and self-defense trainer. During World War I, he was interned with other German citizens in a camp near Lancaster where he trained other inmates in fitness and exercises. It was here that the beginnings of the True Pilates Method began to take shape. After the War, Pilates immigrated to the United States. On the ship to America he met his future wife Clara. The couple founded a studio in New York City and directly taught and supervised their students well into the 1960’s.

Pilates and his method, which he and Clara called "Contrology", soon established a following in the dance and the performing arts community. From their point of view, "Contrology" is the complete coordination of the body, mind and spirit. Well-known dancers George Balanchine and Martha Graham became devotees and sent their students to them for training. Pilates practiced what he preached and lived a long healthy life. He died in 1967 at the age of 87. Today, Pilates is practiced around the world by athletes, dancers, fitness professionals, as well as the general public.

All Superior Pilates Instructors have been trained by Joseph Pilates protégé Romana Kryzanowska or her daughter, Sari Mejia Santo, in the original method.

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