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Pilates' Return to Life Through Contrology [Paperback]

Joseph H. Pilates , William Miller
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 31 1998
First published in 1945, this new printing of the first major publication by Joseph H. Pilates and William J. Miller details the exercises, poses, and instructions fundamental to the matwork developed by Joseph and Clara Pilates. Based on his concepts of a balanced body and mind and drawn from the approach espoused by the early Greeks, these are the exercises that currently sustain a worldwide revolution in fitness strategies and exercise techniques. Readers will learn the original 34 exercises that Pilates taught to his students, many of whom have become exercise gurus in their own right. These carefully designed exercises are the result of decades of scientific study, experimentation and research into the variety of physical ills that upset the balance of body and mind. In this book, readers will learn the exercises that Joseph Pilates recommended to accompany the basic advice regarding posture, body mechanics, correct breathing, spinal flexibility, and physical education.

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Customers buy this book with Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising that Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education CDN$ 15.85

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From the Back Cover

This book represents the first major publication in 1945 by Joseph H. Pilates and William J. Miller detailing the exercises, poses, and instructions fundamental to the matwork developed by Joseph and Clara Pilates. Based on his concepts of a balanced Body and Mind, drawn from the approach espoused by the early Greeks, these are the exercises that currently sustain a worldwide revolution in fitness strategies and exercise techniques.

Joseph Pilates has been nothing short of revolutionary in his impact on the world of fitness and exercise. You will learn in this book the original 34 exercises that he taught to his students, many of whom have become exercise gurus in their own right. These carefully designed exercises constitute the results of decades of scientific study, experimentation and research into the variety of physical ills that upset the balance of body and mind.

Pilates makes extraordinary claims about the benefits of his defined science of "Contrology". The exercises shown in this book constitute the breadth of his original definition of Contrology, and are basic to the growing army of worldwide trainers whose teachings rely on the instructions contained in this book. Living testimony to the validity of his own teachings, the photographs of this book are of Joseph Pilates himself at age sixty!

In this book, you will learn the exercises that Joseph Pilates recommended to accompany the basic advice (offered separately in his book, Your Health - see below) regarding posture, body mechanics, correct breathing, spinal flexibility, and physical education. It is fascinating to study these exercises and to discover the origins of what is being taught by fitness enthusiasts, health educators, and exercise trainers around the world.

About the Author

At the beginning of the First World War, Joseph Pilates was imprisoned in England along with many Germans who happened to be living at the time in and around Lancaster, England. He was a German national who had been boxing and performing in England prior to 1914. While living in the Camp, he taught other residents the series of exercises that he had developed for personal use over the preceding decades both in Germany and in England. His own exercise sets drew strongly from his studies of yoga and Zen, as well as ancient Roman and Greek exercise regimens.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is the original Pilates (or Contrology) "manual". In succint (if not always fluid) text, Joseph Pilates outlines the intentions of the legendary exercise system he designed as well as how each exercise should be performed.
This is a simple, short manual. It's surprising that a system that has ended up being shrouded in so many mysteries and rules, particularly by those who are in his direct "lineage", started out relatively humbly. Many, many Pilates instructors will tell you that if you can't take a class in Pilates (and usually in an expensive studio), you're probably doing it wrong (and then maybe it's not worth doing). Also, many instructors have argued that most people aren't ready to do the matwork and that they should almost always begin with sessions on the equipment (again, under the watchful and expensive eye of an instructor). Pilates, however, writes that his system should help you "Return to Life" at a minimum of cost and time. The tone of his writing is inclusive- his system should be readily available to everyone. While he does insist that the instructions he sets out should be followed and that one shouldn't move on until all previous exercises are mastered, I'm not sure that the man who wrote this book in 1945 would approve of the elitist tone that some of his modern-day disciples have adopted.
It's interesting to note some of the exercises that are not included in the book. For example, the five-part Stomach Series is one of the most famous sequences in the modern Pilates matwork. Here, however, Pilates only includes the first two exercises (the One Leg Stretch and the Double Leg Stretch). Also, the matwork system is also well-known for the Side Kick Series.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Nutcase Feb. 18 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
J. Pilates is a nutcase. Its worth reading the book just for shock value, assuming of course you aren't already convinced he was some sort of perfect being, and have base knowledge of anatomy and physiology. This guy is completely crackers.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Pilates work differs little from Delsarte theory and its decomposition exercises. The writings of Joseph Pilates is stunningly similar to the late 19th and early 20th century works of such physical culture luminaries as Bess Mensendieck, Alice Bloch, Genevieve Stebbins, Professor Attila (the trainer of Sandow and Klein) the coursework of Henry Titus, and many more examples could be found in works by Charles MacMahon, Bernarr MacFadden, Charles Atlas and Tilney.
While it is good that this information is out there, readers should be aware that Pilates is not revolutionary in any way. Time and motion photographic studies of the human body date to the 1880's and Taylor's principles of optimal body movement were evident in early 20th century physical culture exercise training found all over the Western world.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
163 of 169 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good supplement to instruction as you advance June 3 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Having studied Pilates(R) for some time and gone through many of the phases of body change and self discovery that the system provides. The book is a reproduction of a relic originally published in 45 under the title "Return to Life Through Contrology." Contrology was the original name that Joseph Pilates gave to his system of exercise. The (R) marks and the PILATES name spattered everywhere is a result of the recent surge and push to mass market the system for profit. This book takes the reader, who simply must be a Pilates student to benefit, back to a more pure time, where Joseph Pilates' ideals grew, not out of a need for copyright symbols, but by a simple desire to understand the human body and to perfect it (beginners should seek out one of the more recently published books to get a better idea of its modern application). This book takes many reads to fully absorb. After reading this book, I discussed it with my instructor, Atasha Avery in Seattle. I understand how she works better because of the book. I now understand her subtle corrections and statements more (whereas before I knew they worked seemingly by magic as she and Pilates(R) transformed my body from flabby and inflexible to somebody who for the first time in my life is free of back pain and comfortable enough with my body to show it off more) and am more able to help her help me. I would definitely not replace Atasha with this book, or with any other instructor for that matter (in my opinion she is a model of the ideals that Joseph Pilates expounds on in his book and is by far the most qualified instructor I have ever worked with. For inspiration, however it is great. The pictures in this book are originals of Joseph Pilates. Although they are not very clearly printed, and should not serve as a guide to performance of the exercises (the best book for this purpose is "Pilates Method of Physical and Mental Conditioning" by Philip Friedman and Gail Eisen), they are a part of Pilates history. If you are serious about starting Pilates and just have to click on a book to buy, click first on Sean Gallegar's book. Then, spend your money on a qualified instructor like Atasha... if you still want more as you advance with your instructor, then by all means buy this book. I give it 5 start because of its historical value. If I were to rate the quality of the publishing separately, it would only rate 1 star. You can't tell from the picture, but this is also a very thin volume, so don't be disappointed if you were expecting an encyclopedia. Good luck, and remember, Pilates is Fitness That Works.
55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for serious Pilates students (and teachers) June 3 2004
By Deb Nam-Krane - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the original Pilates (or Contrology) "manual". In succint (if not always fluid) text, Joseph Pilates outlines the intentions of the legendary exercise system he designed as well as how each exercise should be performed.
This is a simple, short manual. It's surprising that a system that has ended up being shrouded in so many mysteries and rules, particularly by those who are in his direct "lineage", started out relatively humbly. Many, many Pilates instructors will tell you that if you can't take a class in Pilates (and usually in an expensive studio), you're probably doing it wrong (and then maybe it's not worth doing). Also, many instructors have argued that most people aren't ready to do the matwork and that they should almost always begin with sessions on the equipment (again, under the watchful and expensive eye of an instructor). Pilates, however, writes that his system should help you "Return to Life" at a minimum of cost and time. The tone of his writing is inclusive- his system should be readily available to everyone. While he does insist that the instructions he sets out should be followed and that one shouldn't move on until all previous exercises are mastered, I'm not sure that the man who wrote this book in 1945 would approve of the elitist tone that some of his modern-day disciples have adopted.
It's interesting to note some of the exercises that are not included in the book. For example, the five-part Stomach Series is one of the most famous sequences in the modern Pilates matwork. Here, however, Pilates only includes the first two exercises (the One Leg Stretch and the Double Leg Stretch). Also, the matwork system is also well-known for the Side Kick Series. Here, Pilates only includes the Side Kick- none of the other now-common five, six, seven, etc. variations. Were these not included because they hadn't been invented yet or because they were deemed too difficult? Not sure, but he does include the more difficult variations for exercises like the Corkscrew.
The instructions for each exercise are simple and (for the most part) easy to understand. That said, it is easy to understand why many Pilates instructors could get overly wordy on some of the movements. Many of the exercises he demonstrates put a lot of pressure on the neck. I wouldn't necessarily advise that this be the only Pilates reference or manual someone uses to learn the movements.
In addition to the instructions for the Contrology matwork, Pilates also shares his thoughts on the importance of proper diet, sleep and relaxation. After reading this twice, I would say that his primary concern was a lack of good circulation. He explains that his system was designed to promote just that (and that's part of the reason almost none of the movements are done standing), and he even has suggestions for the proper way to clean the body such that the skin can breathe (answer: dry-brushing).
While some of Pilates writing style may be off-putting to modern readers, he comes across as a man who would like to make the world a better place, one body at a time. If perhaps a little too strident at times, his motivation seems both benevolent and sincere.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where it all started Dec 13 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am a Pilates instructor so I found the book immensely helpful in understanding the origins of the Method. I would, however, only recommend this book for an instructor or a serious student of Pilates as it is not an easy read. If someone is looking for a glossy, modern guide to Pilates, this is not the book. It amazed me that so many of the techniques he advocated so many years ago are so effective today. Both the vintage pictures and the text fascinated me! Again, this is an excellent book for people who really want to know and understand pure, unadultered Pilates.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Return To Life through Contrology Oct. 26 2000
By Raylene Hallman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I find this book very informative, not only historically but medically. As a nurse it's interesting to see what techniques are applicable to today and which we now know may not be safe. It's also interesting to see how Joe's original descriptions of his exercises have changed over the years, according to who is doing the teaching. I feel it was really overpriced for it's size, but for me worth it.
44 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not what I thought! March 23 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've been doing Pilates sessions now for a year and bought this because it is written by Joseph H. Pilates who developed the system. I've enjoyed the other one or two books on Pilates around at the moment but thought this might give a new insight. I just could not get into this book and, strange to say, found it not to be at all relevant for someone like myself who enjoys Pilates as a form of exercise. It is not an easy read and this is not helped by the surprisingly poor quality of the book as a whole - poor b&w reproduction. I can see that this might give some useful background for Pilates teachers but don't believe it adds anything for the 'layperson'. Have I missed the plot or does anyone else out there share this view?
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