The Pilates Method was designed by Joseph Pilates to create maximum muscle strength while increasing flexibility. Widely practiced by top athletes and dancers, his innovative method focuses on strengthening the deep abdominal and postural muscles to create a body that is strong, supple and perfectly aligned.

Joseph Pilates (1880-1967), was born in Germany and eventually settled in Manhattan. After a life full of colorful experiences–posing as a model for anatomical charts at fourteen, diving, skiing, gymnastics, boxing, even training English detectives in self-defense (!)–he found himself in an internment camp for German citizens in England during WWI. There he led his fellow internees in exercises and began working with the camp’s disabled on homemade equipment fashioned out of springs, pulleys and straps. The exercises formed the basis for the method he called “Contrology.” The homemade equipment became the basis for the Pilates machines upon which Contrology could be performed.

In New York, Joseph Pilates patented some of his exercise equipment and ran a studio with his life partner Clara (Zuener) Pilates. Since the studio was in the same building as the dance companies of Martha Graham, Ted Shawn, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, Pilates had a never-ending stream of injured dancers upon whom to practice. Actors, gymnasts and others gradually realized the effectiveness of the system not only for recovery from injuries but also as the basis for improved health and enjoyment of life.

After Pilates’ death in 1967 at the age of 87, his exercise system continued to be practiced and taught in New York and Los Angeles by his students and followers. Over the ensuing decades the Pilates method has become ever more popular and widely known, with millions of practioners throughout the world.