Out of a childhood plagued by rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever grew a man obsessed with health and exercise. German born Joseph H. Pilates was an accomplished gymnast, swimmer, diver, boxer, circus performer, self-defense trainer, practitioner of yoga and Zen meditation and even a model for anatomical charts.
During WWI, Mr. Pilates was detained in England where he trained other inmates in fitness. It was here that the beginnings of the true Pilates Method began to take shape. He worked with severely injured soldiers by rigging springs to hospital beds to help them strengthen before they could even stand. These were the earliest models of what became the reformer.
Eventually, he moved to America where he and his wife, Clara, founded a studio in New York City. They provided training and injury rehabilitation to athletes, professional dancers (including the students of George Balanchine and Martha Graham), as well as those suffering from polio and other debilitating conditions.
The partners predicted a cultural trend toward increasing dependency on technology and sedentary lifestyle. With brilliant foresight, they designed exercises to prevent or alleviate the tensions and imbalances brought on by these physically harmful tendencies. Due to its phenomenal success in nurturing internal and external health, the Pilates method has persisted and evolved over the past 80 years!
Images of Joseph Pilates: Photographer Unknown.