In Germany, Pilates achieved success as a boxer, gymnast and circus performer and was recognized for his athletic skills in skiing, diving, fencing and wrestling. At the outbreak of WWI in 1914, Pilates was interned in a prison camp in England. Mr. Pilates used this opportunity to help strengthen and train fellow internees and nurse them back to health. It was during this period that Pilates began to devise his method called “Contrology,” and created his first “bednasium,” a bed/exercise apparatus rigged with springs to help rehabilitate the bedridden, (commonly know today as the “Cadillac”).
After WWI, Pilates returned to Germany briefly and was soon on his way to the United States in 1926 as the political environment in Germany destabilized. Pilates opened his private studio in New York City and worked with many renowned dancers including George Balanchine, Martha Graham and Jerome Robbins, famous boxer Max Schmelling and other notable socialites including the VanderBuilts.
Pilates died in 1967 at the age of 87 due to complications from a studio fire; however his legacy of exercise lives on and continues to gain more recognition and popularity today. Pilates himself declared that his work was “50 years ahead of his time.”
Joseph Pilates believed that “the acquirement and enjoyment of physical well-being, mental calm and spiritual peace are priceless to their possessors…(and)…through Contrology this unique trinity of body, mind and spirit can be attained.” The method is intended to restore vitality, balance, natural movement and flow of energy.