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Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in 1883 in Monchengladbach, Germany. He was known to have been a man’s man, studying bodybuilding, boxing, yoga, martial arts and gymnastics.

Joseph Pilates moved to the UK for a new life in 1914. It is thought that he made a living as a boxer and performed in the circus. When World War I broke out in the same year, he was considered an enemy alien and was interned at a camp in Lancaster and then transferred to the Isle of Man in September 1915.

Legend has it……. at the camps he trained his fellow internees in the physical fitness exercises he had developed and began assisting the camp’s hospital in helping the bedridden patients regain strength and muscle control. It is certainly where his ideas of “Contrology” developed and progressed.

In 1919, he was deported back to Germany. Before he left for the USA in 1926, he had further developed his fitness theories and exercises. He became more heavily involved in boxing, taught self defence to the Hamburg Military Police and also earned an income as a healer.

Joseph Pilates wrote ‘Your Health’, published in 1934, and ‘Return to Life Through Contrology’ first published in 1945. These books already highlight that he was years ahead of his time, recognising that modern lifestyles encouraged bad posture, improper breathing and inactivity which led to poor health.

Turn Pilates Reformer Bearsden


He lived a long, healthy life until his death in 1967 at the age of 84. His wife Clara continued to teach the Pilates Method at the studio until her retirement in 1971, when she left the studio in the capable hands of Romana Kryzanowska. Romana represents the lineage of Classical Pilates and training programmes such as The Pilates Center.

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