About Joseph Pilates: The Pilates Room

Who was Joseph Pilates?

Joseph Pilates was born in a small town near Düsseldorf, Germany in 1880. He was small and sickly. Given an anatomy book, Joe began his study of the human body at an early age. Using movement of his own body to learn and memorize every page of the book, by 14 he was modeling for anatomy books! His father a gymnast, and his mother a naturopath. Joe later became a skilled boxer, gymnast, circus performer, skier and diver; in addition he practiced Yoga and Zen meditation. Through his own physical transformation, he came to realize the that Movement Heals!

While in England during WWI, Joe was interned in a camp for German nationals. This is where he began to develop his system of original exercises he later named “Contrology”. He taught wrestling and self-defense to other interns, and also worked with patients confined to hospital beds. He rehabilitated patients with apparatus that provided resistance training; the men he worked with were said to have recovered and were the strongest in the camp!

Joe returned to Germany when the war was over and trained Military police in addition to working with personal clients. In 1925 he left for the U.S. and en route, met his wife Clara who, with him, opened up a gym in NY City and taught Joe’s Pilates Method side by side. "Contrology" ("Pilates" today) soon became popular in the dance community (you still see that reflected in Pilates today) with dance icons such as Martha Graham.

Joe passed away at age 87 and Clara continued to teach in the studio for another 10 years.

In the last several years Pilates has become more main stream with the help of Hollywood stars such as Sharon Stone, Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, etc. Fortunately it has expanded past NY and LA to our own Elmhurst Community!