German born Joseph Pilates was essentially an inventor and explorer (of ideas, rather than places). He was very interested in all aspects of human health. He believed strongly in the co-ordination of mind, body and spirit.
He spent his life devising apparatus and exercises to achieve that end, and passing on his ideas to others. He opened his studio in New York after emigrating to the US in the 1920's and continued to design apparatus (and furniture) and to develop his ideas until his death in 1967. Many of his inventions look bizarre, but most of the apparatus that he designed to train people in better movement is in use today in Pilates studios around the world.
Pilates in the 21st century is a movement system taught either as mat or studio classes, privately or in groups.
The Pilates movement system is based around a few basic principles:
Whole Body Health
Whole Body Commitment*
*Whole Body Commitment is mental and physical discipline, a work ethic, an attitude toward oneself and assuming a lifestyle that is necessary to achieve Whole Body Health.