Joseph Pilates was born in Mônchengladbach, Germany around 1880. He was a frail child, and as he grew older, he realized the body needed to be like a well-oiled machine. This meant having a proper diet, plenty of sleep, enjoying the outdoors (and sometimes the finer things in life), being aware of posture, and of course, exercises. He loved boxing, skiing, and the human form. He was a model for anatomy books. When World War I broke out, Joe Pilates was shipped to an internment camp on the Isle of Man. There, he developed exercise programs for inmates and used beds with springs as apparatus. This was the birth of Contrology (or Pilates, as we know it today).
In 1926, Joe moved to New York and opened a studio. He used his specially developed apparatus to improve each body. Many dancers sought his help to overcome injuries, and became better dancers. He helped business men, mothers, opera singers, actors, and many more.
Joseph Pilates died at the age of 87. His wife, Clara Pilates, continued teaching at the studio until her death in 1977. Pilates’ teachings continued through several of his students (now called Elders (or 1st generation teachers). The method practiced today that is true to the original teachings is called Classical Pilates. It includes hundreds of exercises done on the mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Electric Chair, and many other pieces of apparatus.
Here is an example of work being done on the Reformer: