"Pull up, pull in & breathe"

Joseph Pilates and his method

Published on: 31/08/17

Joseph Pilates and his method

My clients often ask questions about Joseph Pilates and the Pilates method.

So here goes ……….

1. Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born Sunday 9 December 1883, in Mönchengladbach (near Düsseldorf), Germany.

2. As a young boy, Joseph suffered from asthma, rheumatic fever, rickets and many health problems.

3. At the age of 5 he lost the sight of his left eye as a result of being a victim of being bullied.

4. He studied anatomy books, animal movements, Eastern disciplines of Yoga, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Qigong, Ancient Greek and Roman fitness practices.

5. His recreational pursuits were body building, boxing gymnastics, skiing and diving.

6. He overcame his health problems at the age of 14 and was so fit that he was modelling for anatomical charts.

7. His first wife was called Maria and they had a daughter Helene on Friday 30 November 1906. Maria died in Germany in 1913.

8. He moved to England to further his boxing career in 1912 and at the same time worked as a circus performer.

9. He was interned in a camp in Lancaster in WWI. It was at this time he began to teach and develop the mat exercises that he later called Contrology.

10. He was transferred to a camp on the Isle of Man. He began helping patients in the infirmary and it was at this point that he invented the first of many innovative exercise and rehabilitative machines.

11. In those days bed rest was considered the best treatment for most illness. Pilates was told, "you can do anything you like with them, as long as they stay in bed". He created an apparatus from bunk beds and springs to allow bed-ridden inmates to exercise effectively. The hospital beds were the inspiration of the future Pilates equipment - Reformer, Cadillac and Trapezuim table.

12. Pilates returned to Germany after the war where he trained the Hamburg Military Police. He also collaborated with dance and exercise experts such as the famous movement analyst, Rudolf von Laban, who incorporated some of Joe's theories and exercises into his own work. At this time, he also married Elfriede on Friday 10 October 1919 in Westphalia, Germany. Elfriede died in 1931.

13. He met future wife Anna Clara Zuener in 1926 on the ship Westphalia destine for New York.

14. Joseph Pilates took over a boxing gym at 939 Eighth Avenue (the Van Dyck Building), along with several dance studios and rehearsal spaces. Many dancers were sent to Joe to be "fixed".

15. Back in the day, he taught many well-known dancers – Martha Graham, George Balanchine, Ted Shawn and many more.

16. He spent his life helping those to cultivate and refine a natural way of moving by prescribing not too much and not too little of the right exercise for each individual body.

17. He died on Monday 9 October 1967 from emphysema.

18. Joseph Pilates' greatest legacy remains his 34 Contrology exercises now known as the 1- 34 Pilates Repertoire and many more mat and equipment Pilates exercises.

Click on the below link to view the 34 Pilates exercises

Books to read

  • Pilates Return to Life Through Contrology – Joseph H Pilates and William John Miller
  • Your Health - - Joseph Hubertus Pilates
  • A Pilates’ Primer: The Millennium Edition - Joseph H Pilates and William John Miller
  • The Complete Writings of Joseph H Pilates – Your Health, Return to Life Through Contrology - Joseph H Pilates and William John Miller

Ready to book a Pilates session?

To book a consultation, 1:1 Pilates session or Pilates class, click below

Book a Pilates Session


To register your interest and enquire about availability and times, please click below