Born in 1883 in Mönchengladbach, Germany. His father was a metal worker and gymnast and his mother was a naturalpath, she believed you had to stimulate the body to heal itself.
Joseph was a sickly child. He suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever. He dedicated himself to improving his physical strength, leanrning anatomy, yoga, and endurance. He was introduced by his father to gymnastics and body-building, and boxing.
By the age of 14, he was fit enough to pose for anatomical charts. Pilates came to believe that the "modern" life-style, bad posture, and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health.
He moved to England in 1912, he earned a living as a professional boxer, a circus-performer, and a self-defense trainer.
During WWI Mr.Pilates (a German) was placed in an internment camp. It was during those 5 years that he continued to develop his system, and taught it to others in the camp. It was a rumored that because of his teachings, no person in the camp got the devastating influenza outbreak of 1918.
Around 1925, Joseph left for America. He met his future wife and teaching partner, Clara, on the ship. They arrived in New York City, where they opened The Body Contrology Studio. Since it was close to several dance studios, many of their first clients were professional dancers. Soon the method, not the name, became more and more popular. Everyone started calling it Pilates.
For the rest of his life, Joe continued to develop his exercise system, wrote two books on the subject, and continued to create new pieces of equipment to enhance the Pilates Method.
He developed a method of body-conditioning named Contrology. This method consist of carefully designed movements, done on an array of equipment and mats.
After Joe passed away in 1967, Contrology became known as Pilates. Today, pilates is practice by millions of people form all walks of life. Joe Pilates has been claimed by multiple people for being ahead of his time.
Pilates is for every body and every age.
Contrology [Pilates] is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work.
Change happens through movement and movement heals.
It's the mind that builds the body.
If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.
A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.