Born in Germany in 1880, Joseph Pilates had a lifelong interest in body conditioning. As a frail child dedicated to becoming stronger, he grew to become an accomplished skier, diver, gymnast and boxer. As a young man, Pilates moved to England where he taught self defense at police schools and Scotland Yard while working as a Boxer.
During WWI, while detained in an interment camp, Pilates taught his fellow detainees his minimal equipment exercises and working as a nurse for injured soldiers. Pilates designed exercises for bed-ridden patients by attaching springs to the hospital beds. This system formed the foundation for his style of body conditioning which he called Contrology.
In the 1920’s, Joseph met his wife, Clara, and moved to NYC where he opened his studio teaching Contrology. Pilates eventually developed
over 500 specific exercises using five major pieces of unique apparatus that he also designed.
Joe and Clara worked with all types of people and became well known amongst the dance community. George Balanchine sent his dancers to “Uncle Joe” in order to get them stronger and/or recover from an injury. This is how a young dancer named Romana Kryzanowska met “Uncle Joe”. Romana worked along side Joe and Clara and promised to carry on his work after Joe died in 1967.