Pilates were originally developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates.  He incorporated the natural breath pattern into his exercises, working on spine alignment and core muscles.  Pilates, a gymnast, first created this repertoire of exercises for veterans returning from the First World War as a rehabilitation aid.  It was later used extensively by dancers to improve their muscle tone, flexibility, and to create a more stable posture for better movement.  Today it is used by many athletes to improve their ability in their chosen sport, in rehab after injury, surgery, or illness, as well as for a great effective workout by anyone.  Pilates utilizes the idea of working smarter, in a very physiologically effective way that reduces the risk of injury, instead of working harder.

It varies from yoga in that the range of motion is very restricted and kept within a very natural range.  Although breathing is used and the mind is also incorporated, it is a more dynamic exercise.