The discipline was created by German-born Joseph H. Pilates a century ago. A sickly child plagued with asthma and rickets, he grew up to be obsessed with obtaining a healthy body and life style. He sought a discipline to combine the physique of the ancient Greeks with the meditative strength of the East.
The result was a system of exercises he called “contrology,” requiring intense concentration and centered on a strong abdomen, deep stretching, and focused breathing. It worked for him. Joseph Pilates became a boxer, diver, skier, gymnast, and an incredible physical testament to his method.
Pilates taught his method to wounded English soldiers during World War I, using springs he removed from their hospital beds to assist them as he developed techniques to increase their range of motion, and keep their muscles from atrophy during the long months of rehabilitation. It was from these crude devices that the equipment we use today originated. This equipment includes the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda chair, Ladder Barrel, and Spine Corrector.
Mr. Pilates emigrated to the U.S. in 1926, teaching his method first to boxers, then ballet dancers, and others from there.