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Joseph Pilates was born in 1883 in a small village near Dusseldorf, Germany. He developed an early interest in physical health and body conditioning. His father was a prize winning gymnast and his mother was a naturopath. In his early years,
Mr Pilates was a frail child who had asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever.  In order to cope with these ailments, Mr Pilates became dedicated to understanding methods of sustaining health and fitness. He achieved some success as a boxer, a gymnast, a skier and diver. During World War I, he taught wrestling and self defense. Mr Pilates came in contact with injured soldiers from World War II. It was then that he devised spring mechanisms attached to beds to aid in rehabilitation and so began the development of what we refer to today as the cadillac. His system focused on the core postural muscles which help keep the body balanced and support the spine. Mr Pilates and his wife, Clara, opened a gym following their arrival in New York in 1926 - on 8th Avenue, where many dance and rehearsal studios were located. Mr Pilates began working with dancers, eventually including such luminaries as George Balanchine, Martha Graham, and Gerome Robbins.

Clara continued to teach Pilates and run the studio after Joseph's death in 1967. One of their disciples, Romana Kryzanowska, later took over the studio and school, moved it first to 56th Street and then to 57th Street, where it remains today.

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