Contrology...what's that? Contrology is an exercise method developed by the late Joseph Pilates back in the 1920's and is the origin of what is now commonly referred to as Pilates.
Did You Know?
As a young boy, Joseph Pilates was plagued with illness, including asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever, which later motivated him to become fascinated with the human anatomy and the study of body strengthening.
Physical fitness to Joseph Pilates was not simply about strengthening muscle, but about the coordination of body, mind, and spirit, which is exactly how he defined Contrology.
Unfortunately, many of Joseph Pilates' concepts have been lost or watered down in your local gym's daily Pilates classes. Mastering Contrology takes large amounts of patience and persistence, and cannot be adequately taught in an hour session.
However, Pilates is still based on some important pillars of Contrology, which might explain some of the questions you've probably asked yourself if you've ever done Pilates.
When doing a Pilates exercise, why is my breathing so important?
Did You Know?
Regular exercise is good for the heart as it elevates your heart rate and increases your blood flow, which reduces the risk of fatty build-ups occurring in your blood arteries.
Did you know that proper breathing while exercising is just as important as the exercise itself? It's true. Proper breathing can reduce heart strain, purify the blood, and develop the lungs!
Joseph Pilates insisted that when performing Contrology exercises you must try very hard to " 'squeeze' every atom of air from your lungs until they are almost as free of air as in a vacuum." Then take a large full breath to ensure that your bloodstream receives its full quota of fresh air.
This is why focusing on your breathing is a big part of any Pilates class and is also why many Pilates exercises require a rolling of the spine action, specifically designed to force all the air out of your lungs.
What's with all the focus and concentration?
Joseph Pilates stressed the importance of studying each of his Contrology exercises very carefully, and to not sacrifice knowledge for speed of movement. With proper concentration, you will find yourself able to focus on every muscle (big or small) that a particular exercise is targeting. In this way, through a series of exercises you can achieve a true full body workout.
This is the reason why Pilates classes are based on the repetition of slow motions and demands your focus and concentration. In addition, this form of motion provides the necessary stretch and retraction required for increased flexibility.
Why am I spending so much time on the floor?
Did You Know?
Sitting or reclined positions allow your visceral organs (i.e. your guts) to sit in a more natural position, relieve strain from your heart, and improve your concentration.
All Contrology exercises were developed to be performed in a sitting or reclined position. Moreover, many Contrology exercises feature a rolling and unrolling of the spine action from the floor, which promotes a healthy spinal structure, and even helps to correct spinal curvature.
For these reasons, fully expect to spend the majority of your time on the floor in any Pilates class.
Will Pilates make me fit?
Did You Know?
Pilates is used today for sports injury prevention and rehabilitation, and is part of many professional athletes' and dancers' training regimes.
Pilates allows many professional athletes and dancers to train and push their bodies harder. However, assuming that Contrology exercises alone will turn you entirely into a physically fit person, is a grave mistake. Contrology/Pilates is an important part of a complete and well-balanced exercise regime including proper diet, sufficient sleep, and cardiovascular exercise.
So the next time you find yourself doing Pilates, remember to breathe, concentrate, and understand that a lot of thought has gone into each particular exercise, so take the time to do it exactly right!
For more information on Contrology and Contrology exercises see the book "Return to Life THROUGH CONTROLOGY" written by Joseph Pilates himself and originally published in 1945!
To read more about the basics of Pilates and how it works, visit HowStuffWorks "How Pilates Works"
To check out efforts being made to preserve and control the study, teaching and training of the Pilates exercise method, visit the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA)
Eric Karmouch is a Computer Science doctoral student at the University of Ottawa in Ontario. He has obtained a Masters degree in Computer Science from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and a Bachelors degree in Computer Science from the University of Ottawa. During his off time you can find Eric leading a variety of Let’s Talk Science (an award winning science outreach program) activities at various schools in Ottawa.