Joseph Pilates was born near Düsseldorf, Germany in 1880. Little is known about his early life, but he appears to have been a frail child, suffering from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. His drive and determination to overcome these ailments led him to become a competent gymnast, diver and skier.
Pilates emigrated to the USA in the early 1920s, opening a 'body-conditioning studio' with his wife Clara in New York in 1926. The studio featured much of the apparatus designed to enhance his rehabilitation work. It soon became very popular, particularly with the dance community, as it offered a chance to improve technique or recover from injury. Word spread quickly and many celebrities of the day visited his studio. These included dance legends such as Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine and Martha Graham, as well as the actor Jose Ferrer and the author Christopher Isherwood.
The Pilates method has gradually evolved and has integrated current biomechanical thinking. However, the roots of the technique are steeped in the philosophy and movement patterns designed by Joseph Pilates over 70 years ago. Today his core method is still taught, as well as an evolved form, by teachers of the Pilates Foundation.
The popularity of the Pilates method has spread steadily since the day when Pilates first opened his studio. Pilates has now become a worldwide phenomenon with over 12 million people practicing, and the numbers continue to grow.