Return to life
This month I’m going to turn your attention to Joseph Pilates you will all know from me talking about my hero, or you have learnt yourself that before the name Pilates was synonymous with a form of exercise, Pilates was a person. Joseph H. Pilates (1883-1967) was the German-born athlete and the creator and educator behind what he called “Contrology.”
The best way to understand the person behind the method is to get your hands on a slim volume called Return to Life Through Contrology. First published in 1945 still available in paperback (together with an earlier work entitled Your Health from 1934), this collection is a concise guide to Joseph Pilates’ theories of health and wellness, from diet to sleep to exercise.
The photos in the book are of Joseph Pilates himself, aged 60* , seeing my hero doing the exercise I love and now teach to share with others is awesome. And his notes and cautions are exactly what and say and am looking out for with my clients some 76 years on I love.
*See December’s Blog JP doing The Push Up
As I teach Mat Pilates I don’t often discuss the Reformer version with my clients, new and current, so let’s explore a little more…
Mat work is the backbone of the Pilates method. All the skills that make Pilates life-and body-changing can be learnt, acquired and accomplished on the Mat. The intellectual rigor that makes Pilates more than just another form of exercise is also found on the Mat. Rather than being a training wheels version of the supposedly more advanced apparatus work, most Pilates aficionados agree that the Mat work is actually more challenging. There’s nothing between you and the Mat.
With no special equipment needed other than a Mat to cushion the spine, it’s a cost-effective and portable workout that can be done anywhere. The genius of Pilates is that it creates a supple, flexible body in which no one muscle is over-developed. Large or small all muscles are worked and strengthened.
Return to Life reveals that Joe was way ahead of his time. While his writing sounds oddly formal to today’s reader, his advice is still relevant, and possibly even more now we are all to our mobile and desktop devices more than we would like to admit. It’s easy to imagine what he might have written about the rise of the smartphone and its deleterious effects on the quality of both attention and posture.