“The Art of Contrology is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work.”
Joseph H. Pilates (1880-1967)
As a child, he had the misfortune of having both asthma and Rickets disease. Rickets is an abnormal bone formation in children resulting in a failure to mineralize bone due to inadequate calcium. This softens bone (producing osteomalacia) and can lead to marked bending and distortion of bones. Among the things he did to prevent the disease from manifesting and deforming him, he pursued a rigorous practice of physical conditioning. His success in achieving his own vibrant health sparked a life long pursuit to teach ‘anyone who would stand still for five minutes and listen’ his method which he called “The Art of Contrology.”
Suffice it to say, together with his wife Clara, he spent more than 40 years in his New York studios perfecting, inventing and creating exercises and machines (with his brother Frederic) that would facilitate an understanding of the mind-body connection with a distinctly Western framework.
Though eclectic in its roots, Pilates is its own system. By studying and trying every ancient and contemporary modality he could find to improve his own condition, he must have realized that if one just trained the ‘abs’ there was little improvement in the body as a whole. So, it seems he set out to perfect a sequence of movements that would address, what he thought, was the most important part of the body; the Center or what we call in modern Pilates, the ‘Powerhouse’.
The Powerhouse is the mid-section of the body, just at and below the waist and down to about the pubic bone, all the way around and through the body; it is not a ‘band’ of muscle. The Powerhouse incorporates all of the intrinsic muscles that support the lower belly and back, the pelvis and thus the base of the spine. The garden-variety ‘sit-up’ will not do much good for the Powerhouse! There is so much more to his story and the modern application of his observations, concepts and his method.
While Joe was the outspoken force behind his method, his wife Clara quietly incorporated his concepts and exercises in ways that benefited more seriously ill or injured clients. Her approachable style and special techniques spawned a dedicated lineage of teachers whose work flows through and uniquely colors the landscape of the Pilates method today. It is perhaps because of Clara that Pilates is clearly recognized as a positive form of movement-based exercise that truly can be tailored to any level of not just fitness, but also of health.*
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*Excerpted from The Pilates Method Alliance website.
Copyrighted material by Charlyn d’Anconia 2007-2016