The History of Pilates

Joseph Pilates’: “Return to Life Through Contrology”*


* Joseph Pilates: Return to Life Through Contrology (1945)

Joseph Pilates’ Principles


Breath & Centering



Breath is the fundamental link between the mind and the body. It provides a rhythm for movement and the force of breath assists in activating target muscles: “Squeeze every atom of air from your lungs until they are almost as free of air as is a vacuum” Joseph Pilates (1945).  Correct use of breath encourages concentration and centering – it helps to create Deep Core Activation that helps us performer Pilates more efficiently and get maximum benefit from them.




A strong centre enhances performance in everyday and sporting activities.  If you think of the centre of your body as the spine (Axial Skeleton) and everything that radiates from it, then all movement radiates outward from the centre.  It’s our keel  – just like a ship.  Developing a strong, stable but flexible centre is one of the defining features of this form of exercise.

Concentration & Control



At first you’ll find that there is a lot of things to think about, but the key is to focus your thoughts on the muscles you are exercising, pay attention and notice how your muscles respond.

– “Concentrate on the correct movements each time you do the exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits”
– “It is better to do five repetitions perfectly than 20 without paying attention”

Joseph Pilates (1945).




If nothing else, Pilates is the practice of control.  “Contrology” is the original name of the method.  To be in control is to understand and maintain the proper form and alignment throughout the practice.  Pilates is never done without the mind fully engaged in controlling the body.

Flow & Precision



All movements in Pilates are done with a sense of rhythm and flow.  Flow creates smooth, graceful and functional movements.  It decreases the amount of stress placed on our joints and develops movement patterns that integrate our body into a smoothly flowing whole.  Is a state of mind in which a heightened sense of awareness is achieved through total immersion in an activity (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Flow [1990]).




If you are just a few centimetres out of alignment, the exercise will not be as beneficial.  It is a fundamental ingredient of the practice of Pilates.  It is a milestone on the path to mastery.  Precision is the end product of concentration, control, centering and practice.