Pilates as a Paradigm Shift

When Joseph Pilates created his system of exercise that he called “Contrology” in the early 20th century, he approached movement and exercise as an integrated whole, not as working the body as a bunch of independent parts. This paradigm shift from the narrow scope of exercise, to the expansive concept of integrating natural, whole-body movements into all facets of life was revolutionary! 

Joe always told his students, “It is the mind itself which builds the body.”  He encouraged his students to use their minds to focus attention on the core postural muscles that help keep the spine supported and the body balanced. It wasn’t just about completing the movements or the machine one used while doing so, but rather the quality and awareness of one’s movement while in motion. As Joe wrote in his book Contrology: A Return to Life,

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

I myself had a very negative relationship to exercise when I first began my Pilates training. Years of ballet, running and dieting had left me with a very unhealthy relationship to my own body. “Unless I’m sore and hardly able to walk the next day, the workout doesn’t count”, was a frequent thought that crossed my mind. Upon beginning my Pilates teacher training in 2009, I was immediately struck by the freedom I felt while trying this new health/wellness/movement paradigm on for size. It felt expansive. It felt restorative. It felt challenging in a muscle ”burning” type of way, but was also equally as challenging in that muscle “releasing” type of way.

I began to forge a new relationship to movement and to the thoughts that I fed myself on a daily basis about my body. I began to understand that much of what I had told myself was good for me was actually causing harm to my body. I began to understand more of what it meant to commit  violence against one’s body in the form of repetitive, high-impact workouts that left me limp and hobbling for days afterwards. And I began to feel better! 

The more I forged this new relationship to movement, the more confident and calm I felt being in my own body. 

Soon, I will share more with you in greater detail more about my journey with the wellness movement and my own slow motion, 180 degree paradigm shift. In the meantime, let’s all marinate on this…

Through Contrology, you first purposefully acquire complete control over 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…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.

- Joseph Pilates