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Joseph Pilates, the inventor of the physical fitness system that bears his name, was a visionary—a title not often viewed as limiting. But the German immigrant who moved to New York at age 43 was so diverse he’s hard to define.

Sickly as a youth in Dusseldorf, Pilates became a physically sculpted teenager after immersing himself into bodybuilding to overcome his childhood issues. Fascinated by health and physical fitness, he studied and practiced Greek and Roman exercise regimens, yoga to tai chi and martial arts to Zen meditation. And he did a lot more.

Pilates, who died in 1967, was a professional boxer and an expert alpine skier and diver. He taught self-defense to detectives at Scotland Yard, the famed police station in London. He worked as a circus acrobat. He was also interned by the British during World War I as a German enemy alien. 

Modern-day practitioners of Pilates can thank the former internee for his choice of fitness. While detained, Pilates worked as a nurse and experimented with patients using his fitness knowledge. He attached springs to hospital beds to allow occupants to tone their muscles while bedridden. It was the genesis of what the regimen is today. It was first widely offered by Pilates and his wife as “Contrology” in New York in the early 1930s. Renowned dancers, including Martha Graham, were early adapters. It’s now internationally practiced, including in numerous styles in studios, fitness facilities and at-home workouts throughout Southwest Florida.

Club Pilates, located in Estero, Fort Myers and North Naples, is part of an expansive national franchise. It subscribes to Pilates’ original Reformer-based Contrology Method, albeit modernized. Offered in four practice levels, classes are group sessions with state-of-the-art equipment. Private sessions also are offered. The franchise explains its services as a “path to a fuller, more satisfying physical existence. We believe that being in control of your body helps you to be in control of your life. And best of all, we believe that you can start anytime.”

DragonFly Yoga and Pilates in Fort Myers offers private, partner and group sessions, also using the Reformer Method, with the original and primary Pilates stretching apparatus. “I’m really known for my physical therapy background of 35 years, and being a rehabilitation Pilates teacher is really what people come to me for,” says MaryAnn McKenna, the studio’s owner and sole proprietor. “I see medically diagnosed people.” 

Like other companies, the studio emphasizes the importance of posture, spine mobility and physicality. It’s also geared toward recovery from chronic issues to the continued practice of strength building.

Mat classes also are offered and include a series of fluid floor work focusing on using the body as the resistance and assistance along with gravity. They’re designed to develop a long, strong flexible foundation … and “to kick your butt!”

Springboard sessions are done on a mat, directly below a long wallboard with springs. The workouts improve body imbalances through a warm-up, core strengthening, upper body and lower body conditioning.

Donna and Larry Ebbs, husband and wife and both certified classical mat Pilates instructors, own Oceanside Pilates in Naples. They utilize mat-only Pilates. “What’s good about doing Pilates with mats is that as long as you can get down on the mat, you’re in,” says Donna Ebbs. “There’s no excuse not to do it.” 

Oceanside Pilates is geared toward private sessions, which she believes benefits clients’ varying schedules. Each session typically lasts for one hour, with a stretching session before and after each workout. “It’s a workout, yes. It’s a total workout. You’re using your own body weight. Not only does it help you stretch, it helps keep your pelvis and hips in alignment.” 

Pilates practicioners

ABC Pilates

4077 Tamiami Trail N., Naples


Barre Fusion Pilates Studio

13040 Livingston Road, Unit 2, Naples


Club Pilates

13211 McGregor Blvd. Unit 102-2, Fort Myers

(also in North Naples and Estero)


DragonFly Yoga and Pilates

14261 S. Tamiami Trail, Unit 19, Fort Myers


everyBODY Pilates & Yoga

9122 Bonita Beach Road SE, Bonita Springs


GWPilates Studio

2500 Tamiami Trail N., Suite 220, Naples


Oceanside Pilates

Naples (in-home appointments)


Pilates Body *by Kate

6240 Shirley St., Naples



25091 Bernwood Drive, Suite 6, Bonita Springs


Reform Pilates

20451 S. Tamiami Trail, Unit 11, Estero


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