Pilates is an exercise that was developed in the 20th century. Originally called Contrology, Pilates focuses on increasing bodily strength, flexibility, and mental awareness. The exercise is often praised for injury prevention and healing.
The name comes from its inventor, Joseph Pilates.
Joseph, born in Germany but an immigrant to Britain and then the US, was ill as a child. He searched for a method to build strength, and ended up body-building through his childhood and teenage years. He studied exercise methods from both the East and West, and practiced gymnastics, Tai Chi and yoga. While practicing each exercise, Joseph observed the effects on his body, and tied the effects to his study of anatomy and motion.
During World War I, the British interned Joseph as a German enemy alien, where he worked as a nurse.
Through his experience, he experimented with his patients, by attaching springs and building contraptions, to help them tone their muscles on their hospital beds, while they recovered. It was this time in his life that provided him with the inspiration to create what we now know as the Reformer, a machine designed for isolated muscle toning.