For this weeks TBT, we’re shining the spotlight on our fave guy, Joseph Pilates. Cozy up with some tea and indulge in these fascinating facts about Pilates, where he and the form of exercise originated and how it has evolved over time. Enjoy!

So, who is Joseph Pilates?

Joseph  Hubertus Pilates was born near  Düsseldorf, Germany in 1883. With a prize-winning gymnast for a father and a Naturopathic Doctor as a mother, it is no doubt that Pilate’s parents had a strong influence in the creation of Pilates as a therapeutic form of exercise. At a young age, Joseph suffered from ailments such as asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Due to these ailments, he was propelled to overcome them and eventually evolve into an avid gymnast himself, as well as a diver & skier. He even went on to be a circus performer, boxer and self-defense instructor in England in 1912.


How was Pilates created, you might ask?

Joseph Pilates believed that common ailments were the result of modern lifestyle, bad posture and poor breathing habits. So in an effort to remedy symptoms of poor health, Joseph developed Pilates as a form of exercise that would target muscular imbalances, improve posture, coordination, balance, strength, and flexibility, as well as to increase breathing capacity. 


Joseph Pilates served as an orderly in a hospital during the latter half of the 1st World War and helped treat his patients and fellow interns by attaching bed springs to the hospital beds which later developed into the famous ‘Cadillac’ and ‘Universal Reformer’ which you see in most Pilates studios to this day!

Pilates in the US?

Pilates moved to the US in the early 1920s, which caught on quickly in New York, and especially within the dance community as it allowed dancers to not only improve their technique, but also heal and prevent injuries. Perhaps you recognize a few names of these famous dancers? Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine and Martha Graham. Originally 60% of the clientele were even men!

-While Joe is the “man behind the method” it was actually his wife Clara that became a beloved teacher in the studio. They actually met on a boat en route to New York City! With her nurturing force she was able to adapt the Pilates method to each student, tailoring it to their unique needs.

So, how has Pilates changed over time?

Pilates is taught today in a multitude of different methods. However, while Joseph Pilates’ legacy lives on through the practice, he did not implement a rigid and formal training program. That being said, it allowed some room for each instructor to add their own personal flare to their teaching style. This open quality of teaching has been one of the many reasons why Pilates has remained so popular over the years. 

Thank you Joseph!

To read more on Joseph Pilates, go here.