The Pilates Method

The Pilates method is a series of exercises developed by Joseph Pilates to improve the mind and body coordination, mental alertness, flexibility, strength and general health and well being. These exercises are executed based on 6 principles namely, centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow.


Your core commonly referred to as the "Powerhouse" is where your energy should flow from when initiating a movement.


Mental focus and alertness are essential when performing the exercises.


Every movement is intentional and performed with full control by engaging the correct muscles.


Pilates is not about endless repetitions. It is about performing an exercise correctly and accurately in order to achieve the goals and purposes of each exercise.


Breathing is an integral aspect of the work. Proper breathing cleanses the lungs, refreshes the mind and replenishes the energy.


Flow means moving from one exercise to another without any rests in between. Every transition is an exercise in itself executed with minimal motion.

Joseph Pilates was born in Monchengladbach, Germany in December 1883.

He was a sickly child who suffered from asthma and several other illnesses at an early age. To overcome his frailty and improve his physical condition, he studied the human anatomy, animal movement and behaviour along with other exercise methods, which later became the foundation for the development of his work. By the time he was an adolescent, he was already practising fencing, Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, boxing and gymnastics.

He left for England just before the start of World War 1 and worked as a professional boxer and circus performer. After the war broke out, he and other German citizens were brought to internment camps at Lancaster and Knockaloe where he continued with his exercise routines and further developed his method. He also taught other inmates his exercise techniques and various physical activities including boxing, self-defence and wrestling.

As he built upon his theories and method during his time at these camps, he also invented specific equipment which would complement his exercises. This development ultimately led to the creation of a fully integrated system of exercises he referred to as the “Contrology”. After the war ended, he returned to Germany and continued to make progress in developing his work and lifelong ambition to spread his exercise methods to the people at large. He was introduced to famous dance and fitness experts, developed a list of followings, treated rheumatic patients and taught the police force in Hamburg, amongst others.

Joseph Pilates moved to New York in April 1926. In 1927, together with his wife Clara, a nurse and a teacher whom he met on his trip to New York, opened their first Contrology studio on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. Their studio attracted a string of devoted clients from diverse industries, in particular, the dance and arts community. Famous artists, composers and dancers such as George Balanchine, Hanya Holm and Martha Graham were amongst the list of distinguished clients that Joseph taught along with their dance students.

After Joseph’s passing in 1967, Clara, Romana and a few other teachers in the studio continued to teach the Pilates method and trained the next generation teachers. Romana took over the responsibility of heading the studio a few years later. Clara passed away in 1977 leaving behind Romana Kryzanowska to carry on the Pilates legacy.

Romana Kryzanowska is a world-renowned protege of Joseph Pilates. Romana was a dance student at the prestigious George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York City when she first met Joseph Pilates and discovered the Pilates method. It all started with an ankle injury which prevented her from dancing. After a few lessons with Joseph Pilates, her ankle improved and she was able to dance again. The method did not just heal her ankle it strengthened her entire physical condition.

Romana continued to take lessons with Joseph Pilates and soon became an assistant working under the direct supervision of Joseph and Clara Pilates at their studio in Manhattan. Romana moved to Peru for a few years but subsequently returned to teach alongside Joseph and Clara Pilates until their passing. Romana eventually took over the running of the studio and dedicated her life to preserving the method, keeping the work pure and teach it the way Joseph and Clara intended. Romana Kryzanowska passed away in 2003 leaving behind her daughter Sari Mejia Santo as representative and guardian of the method.

Sari Mejia Santo is the daughter of Romana Kryzanowska. She was born in Peru but subsequently moved to New York City with her mother in her teens. She trained with both Joseph and Clara Pilates and would often assist them in their studio. Joseph Pilates created specific exercises for her to overcome her delicate physical condition. She later embarked on a career in dance and choreography and returned to teach alongside her mother after her marriage. Sari now teaches and train instructors and trainees from all over the world giving seminars and workshops under the Romana’s Pilates Teacher Training Program. Sari aspires to keep the work pure based on the original teachings of Joseph and Clara Pilates.

For more information please refer to:

Pérez Pont, J., & Romero, E.A. (2013). Hubertus Joseph Pilates the Biography. Barcelona, Spain: Hakabooks