Contrology – The Heart of Pilates

Pilates balance chart

Getting the Most Out of Your Pilates Practice

Joseph Pilates developed his breakthrough Contrology fitness concepts nearly a century ago. To explain his revolutionary exercise workouts he diagramed the importance of a physical and mental practice that, when followed, results in superior conditioning.

At YPL, the Classic Practice focuses on achieving the rhythmic harmony that naturally occurs when mental clarity and physical conditioning are in synch. The feeling you experience after powering through a challenging workout is one of accomplishment, control, and exhilaration.

Join me for a class or session and discover how Contrology can dramatically improve your workout experience and level of fitness.

What Is Pilates Controlology?

Advanced Moves Performed On The Reformer

When we talk about Controlology, we’re referring to the connection between the mind and the body. That connection is important whenever we’re performing our Pilates movements, and it’s essential when practicing the advanced moves on our apparatus.

Whether you’re a Pilates professional or a first time beginner, this video from Munich’s Bluebird Pilates Studio is a perfect demonstration of what that connection means and why it’s so critical in our practice. And before anyone asks, no, I don’t teach these exercises at Your Pilates Lifestyle!

I’ve included this clip just for inspiration for your own Pilates practice (but definitely not for comparison purposes!). Whatever level you work at the principles are the same -concentration and control (mind/body connection) being an integral part. Deepen the work by being fully present in each exercise you perform and make it the best that YOU can make it!


The Physical Art of Pilates Control

Pilates Control by Bluebird Pilates in Munich

This is a great example of Pilates control at its best. Bluebird Pilates in Munich uses a variety of studio equipment to demonstrate the ultimate in controlled Pilates movements.

Obviously, not everyone (or most of us for that matter) will achieve this level of precision and expertise. However, we can all benefit from striving to achieve our own personal best, and keeping this video in mind while performing our own practice is a good place to begin.

I hope that you enjoy watching it as much as I did.

What Is Pilates?

what is Pilates?

What Is Pilates?

Between boot camps, dance beat workouts, wall climbing and ultra fit weight catching contests, Pilates remains as the only widely recognized fitness method to be named after its founder, thus fitting into that uncommon category of both noun and verb.

But what does “doing Pilates” really mean? Kevin A. Bowen is a co-founder of the Pilates Method Alliance. His definition of Pilates, below, is the best I’ve read.

Stretch, Strengthen And Balance

Developed in the early 1900s by German-born Joseph Pilates, the Pilates exercise method is a program of physical movement designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. In 1926 Joseph and his wife Clara introduced their exercise system, originally called “Contrology”, to New York City.

Pilates exercise focuses on postural symmetry, breath control, abdominal strength, spine, pelvis and shoulder stabilization, muscular flexibility, joint mobility and strengthening through the complete range of motion of all joints. Instead of isolating muscle groups, the whole body is trained, integrating the upper and lower extremities with the trunk.

Practice, Practice, Practice

“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 mental and subconscious activities.” (Joseph Pilates, 1945)

What I like about Kevin’s definition is that it specifically lists the fully integrated low impact approach to fitness and well-being that separates Pilates from the competition.

Pilates for Horseback Riders

@Mike Baird

Kate Spahr, Female Equestrian and Artist, runs her horse Sterling @Mike Baird

Is there any physical activity that doesn’t benefit from the many advantages a strong and well developed core delivers? I’m beginning to think not.

I just discovered the latest group that’s turned to Pilates to improve their personal performance – equestrians! From casual Western to strictly English, barrel racing to rodeo, these athletes are training with Pilates to improve their performance and prevent injuries.

Pilates began as a series of exercises designed to help rehabilitate injured soldiers in World War I, then evolved to condition professional dancers in preventing leg and other injuries. Since then, race car drivers, professional athletes, runners, swimmers, bike riders and many other competitors have learned the benefits of a Pilates fitness routine.

Annette Willson’s blog Pilates for Horse Riders teaches equestrians a special style of Pilates that includes very task specific conditioning that targets saddle riding. She has perfectly identified the parts of the body that benefit most from having a Pilates makeover, and explains the logic behind her training in a way everyone can relate to and can understand.

Even if you’ve never even petted a horse, her site offers several excellent reasons on how everyone benefits from Pilates. And if you do happen to ride, your horse will thank you!

How Pilates Can Improve Your Running Game

Pilates and running are the perfect match.

Pilates and running are the perfect match.  A solid core supplements and improves a number of areas critical for peak performance.

Runners Get Big Boost From Core Strength

The other day I came across a guest blog over on Brooks (shoes) Running that shows several exercises runners can perform after a run to improve their results. The writer says that, “A strong core helps create a runner’s longevity on the road and can help alleviate back pain.” Fair enough – but wait, there’s more!

Most runners don’t realize how important maintaining the correct posture is to peak performance and endurance. Joseph Pilates’ original concept of Contrology – the method of developing controlled movement from a strong core – is even more applicable today, as we pursue a variety of physical activities on a regular basis. And that’s especially true when it comes to running.

Pilates System Connects Body And Mind

His Pilates System stresses the connection between the mind and the body for maximum efficiency and benefit. Along the way, Pilates practitioners learn to focus on (among other functions) breath control while they build that strong, long and lean core by performing the interconnected movements Joe first described nearly a century ago.

Pilates balance chartRunners – and cubicle workers, and frequent flyers – all benefit from a well developed core, first and most noticeably from an improved posture which in turn leads to more efficient breath control, better coordination, extra stamina, and overall strength.

If you’re a runner, Pilates should be part of your workout. It starts with The 100. But it doesn’t stop there.

Sitting May Be Hazerdous to Your Health

A Quick Overview of Cubicle Life

Not mentioned was the essential ingredient for combating bad posture: core strength! The votes have all been counted, and the results are this – a well developed core is the most important thing you can do for your body when it comes to modern workday stress.

Whether it’s a coast-to-coast flight, sitting all day in front of a monitor, or running a marathon, core strength is one of the most important elements when it comes to avoiding the effects of poor posture.

Pilates for Stress Relief

The Cycle of Stress

Thought I’d share a chart posted by a Pilates studio in Paris because it helps to visualize what happens when you’re under stress (you know who you are.)

The mind/emotions can have an enormous effect on the body creating, unhealthy postures – shoulders carried high or rounded forward, slouching, low back pain, etc. When this starts to happen, other parts of the body begin to compensate and/or adjust to correct the dysfunction, creating a vicious cycle.

Solution? A regular Pilates practice helps release the tension and break the cycle, leaving a healthier you feeling relaxed and refreshed.

Pilates Mind-Body Muscle Control

What’s Our Body Doing When We Perform An Exercise?

Clients often ask, “What muscle(s) am I using”? Well, in Pilates, as in everday life, it takes a village. And in our Pilates village, when everyone works together the product is perfect form and functional fitness. Look at all the muscles being used in just this one exercise!

The human body is truly amazing! Lots of muscles are recruited at the same time to perform our daily tasks. This illustration of the single leg stretch emphasizes this point.

Concentrate For The Best Results

When performed properly even a seemingly simple exercise like the single leg kick requires a lot of cooperation from many muscle groups. This is why maintaining the critical mind-body connection is so important to proper form and development.

Pilates Mind Body Connection


Understanding the Whole Body Pilates Method

When Joseph Pilates set out to introduce his innovative method of fitness training, he realized that successfully marketing the concept was a vital key to success. In order to communicate quickly and accurately his Whole Body approach, he designed the chart shown above.

For newcomers and practiced followers alike, his ability to visualize the essential five key connections between mind and body in a new and efficient way is as vital today as it was when he first conceived the relationships.