Review of "Return to Life Through Contrology" by Joseph Pilates

Return to the roots of Pilates method with its creator

Joe Pilates, Inventor, physical fitness guru and founder of the Pilates exercise method poses for a portrait in his 8th Avenue studio on October 4, 1961 in New York City, New York. I.C. Rapoport/Getty Images

"Return to Life Through Contrology" is essential Pilates reading. In this one small book, Joseph Pilates conveys the breadth and power of the Pilates method. Covering philosophy and technique, Pilates outlines the effective and enduring approach to whole-body health that now, 63 years since the first publication of "Return to Life," is one of the fastest growing fitness trends in the world.

Book Details

  • 93 Pages. Includes 16 pages of text by Joseph Pilates and instructions for 34 Pilates mat exercises.
  • Originally published in 1945
  • Typical retail price: $29.95
  • Written by Joseph Pilates and William John Miller

Guide Review: "Return to Life Through Contrology"

If you are interested in Pilates at all, I urge you to acquire and read "Return to Life Through Contrology" for yourself. Not only does it provide valuable historical insight into the way that Pilates developed his exercises and thought about the Pilates method, but it is a vital link to the energy of the man, Joseph Pilates. Through "Return to Life Through Contrology," we get a direct transmission of the power, vibrancy and conviction with which Pilates approached—and lived—his work.

This is a book for those who are truly passionate about Pilates and its benefits. Yes, it has exercise instructions and fabulous photos of Joseph Pilates performing the mat sequence at age 60. But for me, what is fascinating is that "Return to Life Through Contrology" is a return to the roots of the method that Joseph Pilates called Contrology, "the complete coordination of body, mind and spirit."

As the Pilates method grows ever more popular, the emphasis can begin to shift away from the multidimensional approach to fitness that Joseph Pilates espouses in "Return to Life Through Contrology." It can become more narrow in focus on just the physical act of exercising and its related goals, such as relief from back pain or the ever-coveted flat abs. But in "Return to Life Through Contrology," the full potential of the body/mind/spirit approach to fitness comes shining through.

This is where you will find the seeds of the Pilates principles, the connections to yoga and the foundation of Pilates technique in its applications to everyday life.

Is Pilates, as we know it today, still Contrology? I hope so. What I do know is that it was the full-bodied spirit of contrology that launched the enduring, life-changing fitness program we now call Pilates. And if we want to truly experience the benefits of the Pilates method, there is no better place to start than with Joseph Pilates himself.

Pros of "Return to Life Through Contrology"

  • Here is the master, Joseph Pilates, writing about the fitness method he created
  • Concise and inspiring
  • Includes photos of Joseph Pilates performing the mat exercises—at 60 years old
  • In one short book, Joseph Pilates communicates the far-reaching potential of the Pilates method
  • A valuable historical record of Joseph Pilates' approach to his Pilates Method

Cons of "Return to Life Through Contrology"

  • Only 16 short pages of text. We want more!

Inspiring Quotes from Joseph Pilates from the Founder of the Pilates Method

"Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure."

"Contrology is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit. Through Contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then through proper repetition of its exercises you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities."

"A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion."

"Contrology is not a system of haphazard exercises designed to produce only bulging muscles. ... Nor does Contrology err either by over-developed a few muscles at the expense of all others with resulting loss of grace and suppleness, or a a sacrifice of the heart or lungs. Rather, it was conceived to limber and stretch muscles and ligaments so that your body will be as supple as that of a cat and not muscular like that of the body of a brewery-truck horse, or the muscle-bound body of the professional weight lifter you so much admire at the circus."

"Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit."

"Contrology is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily "ad-nausem"."

"The art of contrology proves that the only real guide to your true age lies not in years or how you THINK you feel but as you ACTUALLY are as infallibly indicated by the degree of natural and normal flexibility enjoyed by your spine throughout life."

"This is the equivalent of an "internal shower". As the spring freshness born of the heavy rains and vast masses of melting snows on mountains in the hinterlands cause rivers to swell and rush turbulently onward to the sea, so too will your blood flow with renewed vigor as the direct result of your faithfully performing the Contrology exercises."

"Moreover, such a body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all of the complex problems of modern living."

"Though the text portion of Return to Life Through Contrology is a slim stack of pages, it is packed with encouragement and unabashed directives from Joseph Pilates himself. My best advice is to get a copy and find some of your own favorite quotes to go along with those you have just read."

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