The Origins of Pilates

Did you know Pilates had its beginnings in rehabilitation?

Happy International Pilates Day everyone! 

Perhaps you’re new to Pilates or perhaps you have been planking, bridging and finding tabletop for years. Have you ever wondered how Pilates started? Who came up with the design of the reformer and all the other tortuous-looking equipment that we all know and love? 

Pilates Day presents a fantastic opportunity to highlight Pilates origins and celebrate the joy experienced in health, community and quality of life. 

Clinical Pilates Yarraville

It all began with a man named Joseph Pilates. As a German citizen living in the UK during World War I, Pilates was sent to an Internment camp to work as an orderly in a hospital to help wounded soldiers recover. 

During his time there, Pilates insisted that patients participate in daily exercise routines, a method he named ‘Contrology’ to maintain not only their physical health, but also mental well-being. 

For those who were too injured or weak to get out of bed, he attached bed springs to the bedframe to provide resistance allowing patients to exercise who were bedbound. This makeshift equipment formed the basic idea of the reformer. Next time you jump on a piece of pilates equipment take a look and the foundations of a hospital bed might just spring to mind (pardon the pun).

Hampton Pilates

Following WWI, Joseph Pilates immigrated to America where he met his future wife Clara. The couple opened their first studio in New York and continued to teach Contrology and refine the design of the primitive bed springs into the range of Pilates equipment we are more familiar with today, including the Reformer, Wunda Chair, Trapeze Table and Ladder Barrel. They taught ‘the art of control over mind and body in equal measure’ well into their 80s.


Pilates’ method brought the awareness of breath to focus and the importance of strengthening the core postural muscles. This method became popular within the New York dance community as it offered a way to improve technique and recover from injury. 

It wasn’t until his death in 1967 that his exercise methods were referred to as Pilates. Joe and Clara mentored students who went on to teach Pilates’, which has allowed his legacy to continue to grow, evolve and benefit so many people around the world.

A truly wonderful and resilient legacy!

Yarraville Pilates

At All for One we are proud to continue the tradition of Pilates by offering Reformer Pilates and Clinical Pilates at our Yarraville and Hampton East studios.