Gary Calderone, author of The Pilates Path to Health; Body Mind and Spirit is a friend with whom I have shared many Pilates workouts. We have paused in those workouts to acknowledge ah-ha moments, and spent time after appreciating not just the improvement in our physical well-being but also the expansion of our awareness and the uplift of our spirits. So this is an entirely biased book review. But read on because The Pilates Path to Health is an important book, one that even prior to publication struck a resonant chord in much of the Pilates community as evidenced by the endorsements that fill several pages and the back cover.
A significant departure from the "how to do exercises" Pilates books, The Pilates Path to Health shines a fresh light on the physical, mental, and spiritually transformative effects of Pilates practice. To those interested in fitness beyond appearance, and especially to the many Pilates practitioners who have longed for a broader conversation about how Pilates is truly "a complete coordination of body, mind and spirit" (Joseph Pilates), this one's for you.
The physical benefits of Pilates are well known. It is often cited as a way to alleviate back pain and all manner issues related to structural imbalances in the body. What is not so often talked about is the wider scope of healing and self-renewal that people experience through Pilates. Keeping his work rooted in real-life stories, including his own, Gary has taken on an exploration of how Pilates brings about extraordinary shifts in health and consciousness including, group consciousness.
Actually, The Pilates Path to Health covers a lot of territory. In it, you will find history, information about the role of equipment, and Pilates resources; but what stands out to me are the many insights about developing awareness and the body, mind, spirit connection through Pilates and how that relates to health. Many of the ideas are part of Pilates already. Joseph Pilates always intended his work to be healing and life changing. What is different is what Gary refers to as his "21st century interpretation". Some of that is contemporary wording and new science (quantum physics, biology and belief) explanations for concepts inherent in our Pilates experience already. We see that as the book starts with Joseph Pilates, his bio and philosophy, and grows from his vision of health as a trinity of body, mind and spirit. But, it doesn't stop there.
What I think is most unique (and maybe provocative for some) about The Pilates Path to Health is that Gary applies his own insights into personal growth and spiritual development to what he sees as transformative dynamics of Pilates from a metaphysical (beyond physical) perspective. For example, the Pilates principles i.e. breathing, centering, concentration, control, precision, and flow are very much the foundation for Pilates practice. In The Pilates Path to Health, Gary explains the Pilates principles as they are practiced by the body and understood by the mind but goes further, detailing them in terms of metaphysical energetic correlates and the qualities that connect them. Take breathing: The metaphysical correlate is awareness of self and the connecting element is quality of attention. Thankfully these are presented as tools of awareness, not a new set of spiritual directives or rules for Pilates.
Gary is a warm-hearted person and that shines through the whole book in his story and the way he talks about the healing paths of others. At no time will you feel left alone in a metaphysical expose. But I won't say that The Pilates Path to Health is the easiest read. It is dense in concepts and in attempting to speak to many levels at once it loses its track at times. However, Gary is very successful at leading us into our intuition about the transformative potential of our own experience through Pilates: As we become more self aware, we become more whole and free, and in so doing, we heal ourselves and have the potential to heal the world. If your goals in practicing Pilates resonate with "the acquirement and enjoyment of physical well-being, mental calm, and spiritual peace" (J. Pilates, Return to Life) then we might as well start talking about it, all of it. Gary Calderone has opened the door wide.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.