Joseph H. Pilates was born in 1880 in Germany. He grew up suffering from rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. As a teenager he became skilled in gymnastics, skiing and skin diving. His determination and application to work his body to better health mean that at fourteen he was not only studying the musculature of the body but was also in good enough shape to pose for anatomical drawings. His studies also included Eastern forms of exercise. When he merges this with the Western physical studies the Pilates method was born he named his method Contrology.
In 1912 he went to England where he become a boxer and a circus performer When World War I erupted he was incarcerated with other German nationals as an enemy alien. During this time many of his compatriots, following his exercise regime emerged unscathed by an influenza epidemic that has swept the nation, killing thousands. Those in the camp who were disabled soon discovered the benefits of the Method. His innovative style helped him devise a forerunner of today's exercise equipment, he would remove the bedsprings and attach them to the walls above patients' beds allowing them to exercise while lying down.
When world war ended he returned to Germany where he continued to develop his work In 1926 he emigrated to the United States and in this journey across the Atlantic he met Clara, a nurse, who was to become his wife. They open a physical fitness studio in New York and that was when his teachings become known to the dance world.
Joseph Pilates expressed his own definition of fitness in 1945 as "the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure".
Pilates was a man ahead of his time, even today, although the original method has changed as it has spread across the globe, the basic principles incorporated in the method still hold true.