Joseph Hubertus Pilates was born in 1880 in Düsseldorf, Germany. He developed his method during World War 1. He devised a series of exercises that could overcome injuries and postural problems. Before that he had become an accomplished boxer, gymnast, and circus performer and had personally triumphed over a succession of physical ailments, including asthma and rheumatic fever, by devoting himself to the practice of athletics.

In the late 1920s Joseph Pilates immigrated to New York, bringing his unusual views on physical exercise and fitness with him. Ballet dancers were drawn to his work, investigated its benefits, and began to swear by it. Many successful dancers came to him: George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins and Ted Shawn. Over the years, dancers came to rely on Pilates training techniques for both fitness and rehabilitation.He called his technique: "Contrology".

Pilates taught in his studio through the late 1960s. During these years, Joe continued to be healthy and vibrant and still teaching students.

Pilated died 1967 at the age of 83.

"The acquirement and enjoyment of physical well-being, mental calm and spiritual peace are priceless to their possessors ... (and) it is only through Contrology that this unique trinity of a balanced body, mind and spirit can ever be attained." Joseph Pilates, "Return to Life Through Contrology"