What is Contrology?
While today it’s more commonly known as Pilates, Joseph Pilates actually called his exercise method Contrology. In his book, “Return To Life”, he claims that “Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit.” Who doesn’t want that?
The fact that Contrology has been producing results in the United States since 1929 when Joe opened his first gym in NYC is one of the reasons I remain intrigued by it. Not to mention the fact that it’s still growing in popularity despite his death in 1967. But the word “Pilates” has saturated the fitness/wellness industry with multiple – and sometimes conflicting – iterations of Joe’s exercise method. So how do you know if you’re doing the real thing? How do you know you’re practicing the method Joe spent a lifetime developing and teaching and not a new exercise trend that’s simply inspired by it and borrows his name? If you truly want to reap the benefits Mr. Pilates outlined in his book, learning his method matters.
“The only unchanging rules you must conscientiously obey is that you must always faithfully and without deviation follow the instructions accompanying the exercises and always keep your mind wholly concentrated on the exercises as you perform them. This is vitally important in order for you to gain the results sought, otherwise, there would be no valid reason for your interest in Contrology.” Joseph Pilates
When practicing Pilates, you should expect to MOVE, be physically and mentally challenged, and even break a sweat. Your workout will traditionally begin on the Reformer or Mat which is the foundation of your training. The goal of the Method is to systematically develop your mind’s ability to control each full-body exercise from your “powerhouse” (core). Joe stated, “Contrology begins with mind control over muscles”. As a newbie, you’ll probably feel surprised at the subtle intensity of even beginner exercises. It almost feels like re-learning how to move, but in ways that feel energizing, efficient, and pain-free.
“How many beginners are amazed and chagrined (even trained athletes in the public eye) to discover how few (if any) Contrology exercises they are able to execute properly! Their previous failure to exercise regularly and properly, or their method of training, has not helped them.” Joseph Pilates
Also inherent to Joe’s Method are the specific movement transitions between each exercise on the Reformer and Mat that help to maintain the flow of your workout while continually challenging powerhouse control. But there’s far more equipment than just the Reformer and Mat. And that other equipment is equally important to the Pilates Method.
Joe was a genius inventor with an equipment solution for every imbalance in the body. Besides the Reformer and Mat, his Method includes the:
- Electric Chair
- Wunda Chair
- Small Arm Chair
- Ladder Barrel
- Spine Corrector
- Small Barrel
- Pedi Pole
- Magic Circle
- Foot Corrector
- Toe Exerciser
- Finger Exerciser
- Neck Stretcher
- Push Up Device
The way the Method works is that your Pilates teacher will use the Reformer and Mat portion of your workout to continually assess your postural and movement patterns. Here are some basic examples:
- How well can you stabilize your pelvis while moving your legs against resistance?
- How smoothly can you roll/articulate through your spine?
- Can you sit up tall without back support?
More than simply counting repetitions, we’re always observing what your body needs in order to “develop(s) the body uniformly” and “correct(s) wrong postures”. Then, we use the rest of the equipment to introduce, correct, challenge, and/or reinforce the specific movement patterns your body needs to create a balance of strength, stretch and control. Using the full spectrum of Joe’s equipment offers you different levels of stability, support, and spring resistance which makes Pilates even more functional for everyday life. Plus, it’s fun to change up your workouts while maintaining cohesive workout goals.
Something else notable about an authentic Pilates studio is the brand of equipment used. It will exclusively use equipment manufactured by companies such as Gratz Industries or Pilates Designs because they maintain integrity to Joe’s original designs and dimensions. Why is that such a big deal? Because he created his exercises to work synergistically with his apparatus. When you change the design and dimensions of the equipment, as most manufacturers have, you change the physics and the focus of the exercise. Thus you change the results and the Method itself.
Because I’ve chosen to teach an exercise method that bears the name of it’s inventor, Joseph Pilates, I feel it’s my responsibility to stick to his work as closely as I can. In my experience, it doesn’t need to be diluted with today’s fitness trends or my own creativity. After all, Joe didn’t give me permission to alter or evolve his work. And once you’ve experienced his Method in it’s entirety you’ll be in awe of just how comprehensive, complete, and genius it is!
The acquirement and enjoyment of physical well being, mental calm, and spiritual peace are priceless to their possessors… it is the ideal to strive for, and in our opinion, it is only through Contrology that this unique trinity of a balanced body, mind, and spirit can ever be obtained. Self confidence follows. Joseph Pilates