Sunday, July 08, 2018

REVIEW: Return To Life Through Contrology by Joseph H. Pilates

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Return to Life was written by Joseph Pilates back in 1945 when he was 60 years old. Contrology, as he called it back then, became the basis for our modern day Pilates. Many of the principles introduced then have been brought forward into how we practice today, while others were slightly changed, refined, or modernized as we learned more about the various systems of the body.

The style of writing immediately struck me as old fashioned as it was originally written in 1945. While oftentimes a bit wordy in trying to get his point across, the writing was still typical of it's time, whereas today we focus on employing as few words as possible to get our point across. Unfortunately, it sometimes got a bit tedious in the reading, waiting for him to get to the point with all the comparisons and examples, and often taking 500 words to say something that today we could easily get across in 100. But then again, seeing as exercise and fitness was not a common subject of the time, perhaps these people needed it hammered into their head in such a way!

Joseph continually emphasized proper breathing technique, and breathing through the exercises—though we've refined that a bit more today to incorporate what we call 360 degree breathing. Balance is another key concept in his work—balanced muscles, balanced body, balanced mind—and was essential to bring to life your otherwise dormant muscles for optimal balance, health, and better brain functioning. He touches on improved blood circulation and talks about brushing with a stiff brush in the shower, what we refer to today as dry brushing or lymph node brushing. Definitely a pioneer of his time.

A few things that have evolved from his original exercises have more to do with specifics of how they're performed. For example, in many of the exercise descriptions, he says to flatten your spine to the floor, whereas today we often work in a neutral spine for some of these same poses. In addition, when legs are extended, he advises to lock your knees. Perhaps the meaning was different back then, but in today's terminology, locking your knees often leads to hyperextension in many people so we don't really use that term anymore.

Going forward, I'd like to see more men practicing Pilates. It certainly appears that Joseph focused more on men in his original design. Of the men practicing today, at least they seem to understand some of the main principles behind Joseph's work and it's value in overall wellness. As a Pilates Instructor, I hope to help spread that word far and wide, and prove that Pilates is not just for women.

Joseph Pilates was indeed a pioneer of his time, and were he alive today, I'm sure he'd be extremely happy at how his work has progressed while still remaining true to his original vision.