Joseph Pilates was living in England, working as a circus performer and boxer, when he was placed in forced internment in England at the outbreak of WWI. While in the internment camp, he began to develop the floor exercises that evolved into what we now know as the Pilates matwork.
As time went by, Joseph Pilates began to work with rehabilitating detainees who were suffering from diseases and injuries. It was invention born of necessity that inspired him to utilize items that were available to him, like bed springs and beer keg rings, to create resistance exercise equipment for his patients. These were the unlikely beginnings of the equipment we use today, like the reformer and the magic circle.
Unhealthy as a child, Joseph Pilates studied many kinds of self-improvement systems. He drew from Eastern practices and Zen Buddhism, and was inspired by the ancient Greek ideal of man perfected in development of body, mind and spirit. On his way to developing the Pilates Method, Joseph Pilates studied anatomy and developed himself as a body builder, a wrestler, gymnast, boxer, skier and diver.
In 1925 he migrated to New York where he taught Pilates until 1966. During that time, he trained a number of students who not only applied his work to their own lives but became teachers of the Pilates method themselves. This first generation committed themselves to passing along Joseph Pilates work exactly as he taught it. This approach is called “classical style” Pilates. Other students went on to integrate what they learned with their own research in anatomy and exercise sciences.
Joseph Pilates' New York studio put him in close proximity to a number of dance studios, which led to his “discovery” by the dance community. Until exercise science caught up with the Pilates exercise principles in the 1980s and the surge of interest in Pilates that we have today got underway, it was chiefly dancers and elite athletes who kept Joseph Pilates' work alive.
Joseph Pilates passed away in 1967. His wife Clara Pilates continued to teach and run the studio for another 10 years after his death. The Pilates lineage has evolved in a number of different forms under the Elders trained by Joseph, hence the diversity of Pilates styles seen today.
We acknowledge the source of this historical material – www.Pilates.About.com