Pilates History

Pilates History – an animation

A fitness guru and inventor, Joseph Pilates was sick throughout his childhood, suffering from rickets, asthma, and rheumatic fever, yet he went on to develop Pilates.

Joseph Pilates was born in 1883, near the North German city of Dusseldorf, and died in 1967 in New York. He worked in Britain from 1912 to 1914 as a circus performer, boxer and self-defence instructor. During the First World War, he was interned in England. He developed his techniques by teaching them to fellow internees. After the war Joseph Pilates returned to Germany. He continued to develop his practice and his system of exercise influenced the creator of dance notation Redolf Laban. In 1923, he immigrated to the United States. En route, on the boat, he met and fell in love with Clara, who was to become his life partner.  Clara was a nurse and together they decided to blend their ideas on rehabilitation, fitness and health in developing his business and body conditioning methods. Although they had no children, Pilate’s students took a primary focus in their lives. Joseph Pilates opened up the first Pilates studio in New York and among his clients were the dancers from the New York City Ballet. During his career he developed his methods for body conditioning which he called Contrology, invented various pieces of exercise equipment, published two books, “Return to Life Through Contrology” (1945), and “Your Health”.  We now know these methods simply as “Pilates.”


“A friend recommended Taube Pilates and I choose to go here because of the depth of experience Louise has. Pilates definitely helps my wellbeing. It helps to build my strength, flexibility and general movement.“

Polly Shepard