Pilates is a form of exercise based on the techniques of Joseph Pilates (1883-1967). It focuses on stretching and strengthening simultaneously to promote a uniformly developed body.
Joseph Pilates was born in Germany but moved to England in c.1914. He was placed in an internment camp during the First World War where he began to develop exercises for fellow inmates and techniques to help them recovery from injury. He began devising equipment to allow bedridden patients to exercise by attaching springs to their beds, developing a range of physical routines which he would later develop into a codified form of exercise he called ‘Contrology’.
In c.1925 he emigrated to the US where he set up a studio in New York and developed much of the apparatus that is still widely used in pilates studios today. His clients tended to come from dance and ballet companies, and included George Balanchine and Martha Graham. He published books included ‘Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education’ in 1934, and ‘Return to Life Through Contrology’ in 1945.
After his death, his techniques continued to be taught by his wife and students (including Kathy Grant, Romana Kryzanowska and Eve Gentry) and would later become taught throughout the world.