“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness” – Joseph Pilates

Written by Tamar Simai, Physiotherapist at The Joint Physio


The father of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, was born in Germany in 1883 to a father who was a gymnast and a mother who was a Naturopath. His parents’ achievements and life philosophies greatly influenced Joseph’s future ideas on therapeutic exercise. As a child, he suffered from asthma, rickets (a softening and weakening of bones) and rheumatic fever. He was bullied at school because of his name and small stature, which led him to be determined in overcoming his physical disadvantages and dedicating his life to improving his health and strength.

By the age of 14, as a result of his own exercise regime, Joseph was fit enough that he posed for anatomical charts. He studied bodybuilding, yoga, martial arts and gymnastics; the influence of these activities is reflected in the Pilates technique.

In 1912, Joseph moved to England and earned a living as a professional boxer, circus performer and self-defence trainer at Scotland Yard. However, during WWI, the British authorities placed him with other German citizens in a British enemy’s citizen camp on The Isle of Man. But this didn’t stop him from living by and sharing his techniques.

Pilates insisted that all those in his cell block participate in daily exercise routines which he had devised to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing. Some of the injured German soldiers were bed-ridden, which inspired Pilates to utilise the bed springs by attaching them to the head and foot of the bed to create resistance exercise that could be done lying down. The simple genius thought of these beds, is what inspired the creation of the reformer and trapeze table that are used today. It is said that during the flu epidemic of 1918 that infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide, not a single soldier in Pilates’ cell block died.

After the war, Joseph returned to Germany where he collaborated with experts in dance and physical exercise. Disappointed with Germany’s political and social conditions, he immigrated to the USA, where on the journey he met his future wife Clara. Together they founded a studio in New York where they taught and supervised their students into the 1960s.

His method, originally coined ‘Contrology’ encouraged the mind to control muscles; focussing on postural muscles, awareness of breath and spinal alignment. He believed that modern lifestyle, bad posture and inefficient breathing were the roots of poor health.

The position of his studio in NYC led him to be heavily involved in the strength, rehabilitation and health of famous dancers, actors and celebrities.

Joseph Pilates passed away in 1967 at the age of 83. Leaving behind a legacy that has been preserved and developed into what is a now a widely recognised, respected and utilised exercise technique.

At The Joint Physiotherapy, we have been implementing and integrating Pilates principles into our day to day practice for quite a few years. We have come to learn that the execution of Pilates fundamentals at a low level can be simple, yet the benefits are vast. Just this month we have rearranged the layout of the practice to create a Pilates studio perfect for running small classes of 4 and 1-on-1 sessions.


Clinical Pilates is popular at The Joint Physio, so we’ve added new weekly classes to better suit our patients, which you can find below.

If you would like to arrange your Clinical Pilates assessment, simply book online or call our reception staff on 03 9528 2233



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