The man himself was one of the main reasons I fell in love with Pilates! Despite suffering from rickets and rheumatism as a child he continued studying gymnastics, boxing and zen meditation. This led to various lines of work as an adult including; boxing, teaching self-defense and performing in a circus.
His interest in physical activities inspired him to derive a physical rehabilitation programme for people injured in WW1. In 1919 he returned to Germany where he worked alongside one of the most influential figures in physical theatre, Rudolph Laban. Pilates emigrated to America in 1926 where he developed his method, "Contrology". In his studio, in New York, he primarily worked with ballet dancers, rehabilitating them from injury. Many of these went off to open their own studios, incorporating their own ideas in to the practise.
Today, Pilates has become popular to a much broader audience particularly for defining and sculpting long lean muscles. As a non-aerobic form of exercise it places minimal stress on joints. Although regular practise can strengthen your back and flatten your tummy, it's restorative and preventative benefits should not be overlooked!