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Contrology Unfolded

Lisa Hubbard

“Contrology is a complete coordination of body, mind and spirit.”
- Joseph Pilates


The essence of Contrology is what lies in-between the work and the performer of the work. It guides the intention of breath and every movement. It is the spirit in which we carry out, in thoughtful coordinated fashion, the exercises, which exhibit not only simple patterns of movement, but direction of energy and supportive breath. In order to have complete coordination of body, mind and spirit, Contrology requires that the practitioner dedicate 100% of their awareness to the task at hand and - not only the task at hand - but also how you enter that task and exit from it. However, that awareness means nothing if it is not brought forth with true heart. Ultimately, the essence of Contrology is the passion and dedication in which the practitioner innervates each cell commanding it to perform sequentially and thoughtfully, thus allowing every component of the human structure (cells, blood, nerves, muscles, etc) to become invigorated and cleansed through the process.
 
If the essence is what is in-between the fibers of Contrology, Joseph Pilates’ intention for the method is the fiber of the work itself.  Contrology was intended to cleanse the body by “properly and scientifically exercising every muscle in the body in order to improve the circulation of the blood so that the bloodstream can and will carry more and better blood to feed every fiber and tissue of the body” (Return to Life page 24).  It was intended that through this internal cleanse, the external skeleton and muscular support system would then be able to become a fine tuned machine, working to perform every daily task with ease and suppleness.  It was Joseph’s observations that modern day civilization suffocated the true freedom and animalistic sequencing of movement in humans.  By conforming to modern work environments, sedentary transportation and the demands of the home, humans began to lack the mobility, balance, and suppleness that defines true connectivity to our earthly existence.  Contrology, ultimately, is intended to reconnect and reinvigorate the human self. 
 
For better or worse, with the popularity of modern technology and the modern obsession to fight aging and retain a sense of youth, Contrology has become high demand and mainstream.  Now, Contrology, or as we more commonly know it, “Pilates”, can be found across the spectrum from its pure intentions to the most twisted and unidentifiable form of “so-called” exercise.  It is my impression that modern Pilates falls into four categories and is driven by the teacher’s knowledge of the work and their own intentions:
 

  1. Classical Pilates: Those who adhere to the traditional sequencing of the repertoire.
  2. Evolutionary Visionaries: Those who have a deep understanding of the intent and philosophy of the work, but who embrace proven conclusions from modern scientific understanding and whom study the effects of any alterations to the repertoire. Based on these new findings these people, ultimately make educated decisions about evolving the work to a more modern method. 
  3. Trend Pilates: Placing economic value above the impact of the work drives this category of practitioners to lose the passion, quality and any original intention of the work.  Simply said, this category is quantity over quality and markets itself to the fast-paced modern client who lacks time or attention to detail.  One need only look at the roaring popularity of this form of fitness and it’s endorsements from celebrities. It is regarded as the fastest growing fitness trend in America.
  4. Fusion Pilates:  PiYo, Barre Fusion, and YogaLates are all examples of this category, where people are looking for something less rigid and more dynamic and have tapped into a creative spirit that has resulted in several variations of the classical work.  This category is unique, in that it can fall across the spectrum of intention from Joseph’s original objectives to a complete lack of motive.  Creation did not stop with Joseph Pilates.  He never stopped thinking and creating his method, nor should we ever expect that this type of enlightened thought should have stopped with his passing.

 
Regardless of the category above that one physically practices, the intention of the work can still remain as close to – or as far from – what we individually believe was the original intention. 
 
Your Health, published over 80-years ago, gives us clear insight into Joseph Pilates’ principles, philosophies and theories about health and fitness. He believed that his method was a way of life and a path to total health rather than merely a series of exercises. It is without question that Joseph Pilates was a man ahead of his time.  For me, embracing the intentions and essence of the method, as I understand them to be, has changed my life.  Exploring the depth of the work is a never-ending journey.  Although, Joseph Pilates is no longer with us, I believe that he has achieved his legacy.  He said it best, when he stated, “My work will be established and when it is, I will be the happiest man in God’s Universe. My goal will have been reached.”  It is our responsibility to preserve his legacy and to embrace the path in which it leads us.