Joseph Pilates lived to the age of 80 (1880 – 1967). As a child he suffered from asthma, rickets and
rheumatic fever. He had a strong desire to survive and to encourage others to be responsible for
their own health and well-being. Pilates practiced in yoga, martial arts, gymnastics, skiing, self-
defence, dance, circus training and weight training. These disciplines are evident in exercise
programme he developed, known as ‘Contrology’ (Pilates). Pilates aimed to embrace and support
happiness, health and fitness, through his development of a range of 34 key exercises. In the 1920’s,
Joe and his wife Clara set up the first ‘Contrology’ studio in New York. The first studio clients were
predominantly male, from the boxing community, however, the New York Ballet soon sent their
dancers to Joe, many became his assistants and influenced how the exercises evolved.
Pilates began his exercises on the mat, following which he developed various forms of equipment
including the Reformer. Joes message to the Americans was that through following his exercise
programme, they would be able to ‘return to life’ (The title of one of his books). Pilates exercised
right up until his death. He was a ‘larger than life’ figure, well respected and loved.