The History of Pilates

“Every moment of our life can be the beginning of great things.”

Joseph Pilates

Pilates is a body-mind exercise method focusing on movements that initiate from the central core of the body.

The exercise and philosophy of Pilates originates from Joseph Pilates who was born in Germany in 1880. As a child Joseph experienced a number of health conditions such as rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever, it was this that lead him to discover yoga, zen mediation, and rigorous exercise regimes of ancient Greeks and Romans as a way of over coming his health challenges. He was also introduced to boxing, body –building and martial arts by his father and was excelling in these by his teenage years.

J.Pilates 2
Joseph Pilates – founder of Pilates

He moved to England in 1912 and earned a living as a professional boxer. During the First World War he moved to the Isle of Man and worked as a hospital orderly. He was horrified to see people in bed doing no exercise that he devised an exercise regime, and those patients on the regime recovered much faster.

This later developed into what Joe called ‘contrology’, a minimal equipment system of mat exercises, encouraging the use of the mind to control muscles, with a focus on core postural muscles, this helps to keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine.


By 1960s Joe and his wife had opened the ‘The Pilates Studio’ in New York and attracted dancers from the New York ballet as clients. Joe passed away in 1967 without a will and no line of succession for his work.

The term Pilates was never traded marked and in 2000 a court in US ruled that the term Pilates was generic, as everyone associated it with the form of exercise.

Original Pilates exercises have been developed and modified from the exercises that are know today, this can vary from different training providers and teachers, however they all continue to follow the principles of Pilates

Who can benefit from Pilates?

Pilates can help with low back pain, improving mobility and strength, and provide a body-mind approach to exercise. If you are interested in attending a class or a 1:1 session, we have 18 classes running at the clinic, contact us for more information.