Pilates in Boca


German born Joseph Pilates’ inspiration for his revolutionary method of body conditioning was his own frail constitution. Nearly a century ago, the seeds of his system were planted when he began to study gymnastics and body building to strengthen his physique. He further refined his method after emigrating to England in 1912 to work as a boxer and circus performer. Interned as an enemy alien at the start of World War I, he introduced Contrology to fellow inmates on the Isle of Man.

After the war, he returned to Germany, training the Hamburg Police in his method of body conditioning. Disillusioned with the political direction of the country, however, he soon left for America. On the long voyage, he met Clara Zeuner, who eventually became his third wife. Together, they opened a studio near Madison Garden, working with boxers in the early 1920s. By the 1940s, George Ballanchine and Martha Graham had discovered the remarkable results Joe’s system had on dancers’ flexibility, strength, and rehabilitation from injuries. It wasn’t long before actors, businessmen, and socialites followed suit.

For nearly three decades, he operated his studio at 939 8th Avenue, until his death in 1967. At the age of 84, he suffered a blood clot after slipping on the ice and puncturing his lung. Clara continued to operate the studio for the next ten years, retiring at the age of 90.

Over the years, Pilates work continued to evolve as he developed equipment to address specific physical issues. His first patent, filed in July 1926, was for the reformer, apparatus facilitating exercise without strain on the back or internal organs. Many other patents followed. All reflect his basic philosophy as articulated in the 1934 publications, “Return to Life Through Contrology” and “Your Health”. They are the written legacy left by a remarkable man who has had a lasting and profound effect on the world of fitness.