In 1926, Joseph Pilates created the exercise system he called ‘Contrology’. As a hospital orderly in World War I, he developed it as a way for bed bound patients to exercise. After moving to New York he opened a studio and along with his wife Clara taught notorious dancers. These included Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Jerome Robbins, and George Balanchine. Back then, 60% of his clients were men! If you would like to find out a little bit more about Mr Pilates, I recommend starting here.
‘Contrology’ ‘develops the body uniformly, corrects postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit’. In his book, Return to Life Through Contrology’, Joseph teaches us the 34 original exercises as well as much about life. His washing methods (‘a good stiff brush’ with no handle) may have been forgotten by some, but his exercises and principals are still firmly rooted in what today we call Pilates. There are 6 principals that Pilates advocated:
Breath is heavily focused on in Pilates as it is our ‘first act of life, and the last’. It is something we usually do unconsciously but not in Pilates. Conscious lateral breathing is used to greatly assist the other principals.
Pilates focuses on what is called the ‘powerhouse’. This is much more than what many call the core. Our centre is from the bottom of the ribs to the hips and arguably beyond.
The exercises require close attention to the details in order to get the full benefits of Pilates. Even the most basic of moves require this concentration and focus. This presence also helps the mind leave the rat race and become focussed.
Exercises in Pilates are performed with ‘fluidity, elegance and grace’, Flow means the body is connected smoothly. This assists in an efficient use of energy whilst exercising.
Pilates uses the mind to direct the muscles in a controlled manor. This includes all the tiny movements that we may not usually pay attention to when exercising.
Pilates uses a conscious awareness and control of the body; its placement, alignment and trajectory. This precision enables efficiency and improved postural habits.
About Pilates today
Pilates today has evolved into a dynamic exercise system and way of thinking which can benefit each and every one of us. The 34 original exercises are still performed but many have been adapted to suit contemporary body types. Although there are infinite variations as we learn more and more about human anatomy, they still all follow the 6 original principals. This versatility means that everybody can reap the rewards of the Pilates method. If you would like to find out for yourself then come to one of my classes.