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Joseph Pilates' Book, Return to Life Through Contrology

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


Updated June 23, 2014

Joe Pilates, Inventor, physical fitness guru and founder of the Pilates exercise method poses for a portrait in his 8th Avenue studio on October 4, 1961 in New York City, New York.
I.C. Rapoport/Getty Images

The Bottom Line

Return to Life Through Contrology is essential Pilates reading. In this one small book, Joseph Pilates conveys the breadth and power of the Pilates method. Covering philosophy and technique, Pilates outlines the effective and enduring approach to whole body health that now, 63 years since the first publication of Return to Life, is one of the fastest growing fitness trends in the world.

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  • Here is the master, Joseph Pilates, writing about the fitness method he created
  • Concise and inspiring
  • Includes photos of Joseph Pilates performing the mat exercises -- at 60 years old
  • In one short book, Joseph Pilates communicates the far-reaching potential of the Pilates method
  • A valuable historical record of Joseph Pilates approach to his Pilates' Method


  • Only 16 short pages of text. We want more!


  • 93 Pages. Includes 16 pages of text by Joseph Pilates and instructions for 34 Pilates mat exercises.

  • Originally published in 1945

  • Typical retail price: $29.95

  • Written by Joseph Pilates and William John Miller

Guide Review - Joseph Pilates' Book, Return to Life Through Contrology

If you are interested in Pilates at all, I urge you to acquire and read Return to Life Through Contrology for yourself. Not only does it provide valuable historical insight into the way that Pilates did his exercises, and thought about the Pilates method, but it is a vital link to the energy of the man, Joseph Pilates. Through Return to Life Through Contrology, we get a direct transmission of the power, vibrancy, and conviction with which Pilates approached, and lived, his work.

This is a book for the Pilates passionate. Yes, it has exercise instructions, and fabulous photos of Joseph Pilates performing the mat sequence at age 60. But for me, what is fascinating is that Return to Life is a return to the roots of the method that Joseph Pilates called, contrology, "the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit."

As the Pilates method grows ever more popular, sometimes the emphasis shifts away from the multidimensional approach to fitness that Joseph Pilates espouses in Return to Life, to a more narrow focus on just exercise, and physically related goals such as relief from back pain or the ever coveted, flat abs. But in Return to Life Through Contrology, the full potential of the body/mind/spirit approach to fitness comes shining through. This is where you will find the seeds of the Pilates principles, the connections to yoga, and the foundation of Pilates technique in its applications to everyday life.

Is Pilates, as we know it today, still contrology? I hope so. What I do know is that it was the full-bodied spirit of contrology that launched the enduring, life-changing fitness program we now call Pilates. And if we want to truly experience the benefits of the Pilates method, there is no better place to start than with Joseph Pilates himself.

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