48 Joseph Pilates Quotes – Organized by Topic

Joseph Hubertus Pilates is the inventor of the physical fitness system that has come to be known as Pilates. He named his invention Contrology – hence you’ll find “Contrology” in a number of the quotes below. It didn’t come to be known as Pilates until later.


Joseph Pilates was born in 1883 in Germany and died in 1967 in New York City. Over the course of his 83 years, he invented not only Contrology/Pilates but all of the equipment used to perform its exercises. Some famous examples of said equipment are the Reformer and the Wunda Chair.


Pilates wrote two short books: Your Health (1934) and Return to Life Through Contrology (1945).


All of the 48 quotes below come from these two books. The quotes have been organized by topic, for your convenience.

Benefits of Contrology

1. “Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit.” (RTLTC – 37)


2. “Contrology is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work. You will develop muscular power with corresponding endurance, ability to perform arduous duties, to play strenuous games, to walk, run or travel for long distances without undue body fatigue or mental strain. And this by no means is the end.” (RTLTC – 37)


3. “Contrology is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily ‘ad-nauseam.'” (RTLTC – 40)


4. “Contrology exercises build a sturdy body and sound mind fitted to perform every daily task with ease and perfection as well as to provide tremendous reserve energy for sports, recreation, emergencies.” (RTLTC – 45)


5. “Self-confidence, poise, consciousness of possessing the power to accomplish our desires, with renewed lively interest in life are the natural results of the practice of Contrology.” (RTLTC – 56)

Body Mind Balance

6. “Only through the attainment of perfect balance of mind and body, can one appreciate what really constitutes normal health.” (YH – 11)


7. “What is balance of body and mind? It is the conscious control of all muscular movements of the body. It is the correct utilization and application of the leverage principles afforded by the bones comprising the skeletal framework of the body, a complete knowledge of the mechanism of the body, and a full understanding of the principles of equilibrium and gravity as applied to the movements of the body in motion, at rest and in sleep.” (YH – 20)


8. “Logically , man should develop his physical condition simultaneously with the development of his mind – neither should be sacrificed at the expense of the other; otherwise ‘Balance of Body and Mind’ is not attainable, and this very lack of harmony between man’s physical and mental health, is primarily responsible for man’s unfortunate physical and mental condition today.” (YH – 24)


9. “A sound mind ‘housed’ in an unsound body… is just about as desirable a physical condition as is the structural weakness of a house boasting a fine copper roof but built upon a foundation of shifting sand. A sound body ‘housing’ an unsound mind… is just about as desirable a physical condition as is the structural weakness of a house boasting a solid rock foundation but possessing a roof of flimsy paper.” (YH – 41)


10. “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 subconscious activities.” (RTLTC – 37)


11. “One of the major results of Contrology is gaining the mastery of your mind over the complete control of your body.” (RTLTC – 38)


12. “With body, mind, and spirit functioning perfectly as a coordinated whole, what else could reasonably be expected other than an active, alert, disciplined person?” (RTLTC – 55)


13. “Before any real benefit can be derived from physical exercises, one must first learn how to breathe properly – this all-important function requires individual instruction, not only by precept but by example. It is wholly insufficient to tell the individual to inhale and to exhale. To learn to breathe properly is really more difficult an accomplishment than the average (uninformed) person realizes.” (YH – 42)


14. “Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.” (RTLTC – 43)


15. “To breathe correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying very hard to ‘squeeze’ every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth.” (RTLTC – 43)



Healthy Lifestyles

17. “In order that one may receive the maximum benefit and resulting normal health from one’s daily activities, one should understand at least some of the more rudimentary underlying principles governing the mechanism of the human body in motion, rest and sleep. For example, the leverage possibilities of the bones composing its skeletal framework, the range and limitation of proper muscle tension and relaxation, the laws of equilibrium and gravity, and last but not least, how to inhale and exhale; i .e. how to breathe properly – normall . A knowledge of these are essential if we are to benefit from any exercises.” (YH – 29)


18. “The law of natural exercise precludes the hobby idea altogether in the matter of exercise, unless one is really and seriously desirous of not seeking symmetrical development of one’s body.” (YH – 44)


19. “The man who uses intelligence with respect to his diet, his sleeping habits, and who exercises properly, is beyond any question of doubt taking the very best preventive medicines provided so freely and abundantly by nature.” (RTLTC – 48)

Imagery & Metaphors

20. “As the spring freshets born of the heavy rains and vast masses of melting snows on mountains in the hinterlands cause rivers to swell and rush turbulently onward to the sea, so too will your blood flow with renewed vigor as the direct result of your faithfully performing the Contrology exercises.” (RTLTC – 42)


21. “As a heavy rainstorm freshens the water of a sluggish or stagnant stream and whips it into immediate action, so Contrology exercises purify the blood in the bloodstream and whip it into instant action with the result that the organs of the body, including the important sweat glands, receive the benefit of clean fresh blood carried to them by the rejuvenated bloodstream.” (RTLTC – 42)


22. “As small bricks are employed to build large buildings, so will the development of small muscles help develop large muscles. Therefore, when all your muscles are properly developed you will naturally perform your work with minimum effort and maximum pleasure.” (RTLTC – 45)

Modern Life

23. “Business men, both during and after the war, were so busily engaged in piling up fortunes, that they entirely neglected to devote the necessary time to safeguard their health. Only too late did it finally dawn upon them that in the acquirement of their material fortunes, they, at the same time, carelessly and unthinkingly sacrificed the priceless jewel of their mental happiness, crowned with its physical setting of normal health, which they had so wantonly dissipated.” (YH – 14)


24. “While business men now fully realize that ‘Everyone Is the Architect of His Own Happiness,’ they also learn that happiness is primarily dependent upon normal health and not per se upon the mere attainment of social position or monetary wealth.” (YH – 15)


25. “As civilization advances, we should find the need for prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals growing steadily less and less. But do we find this to be the case in this era? Certainly not! Teach the human race to care properly for itself and you will do away with these abominable institutions.” (YH – 23)


26. “In view of the revolutionary inventions and the never-ceasing research in laboratory and afield, medical science should be emboldened to discard its old-fashioned ideas as well as its orthodox methods of instruction, and concentrate upon ways and means of preventing rather than curing disease.” (YH – 49)


27. “In the Stone Age and onward man lived mostly outdoors with practically little shelter from the elements. He has not yet lived long enough indoors with protection against the elements to be able to successfully withstand the daily strains and stresses imposed upon him by our present mode of ‘fast’ living.” (RTLTC – 33)


28. “Telephones, automobiles, and economic pressure all combine to create physical letdown and mental stress so great that today practically no home is entirely free from sufferers of some form of nervous tension.” (RTLTC – 34)


29. “Since we are living in this Modern Age we must of necessity devote more time and more thought to the important matter of acquiring physical fitness. This does not necessarily imply that we must devote ourselves only to the mere development of any particular pet set of muscles, but rather more rationally to the uniform development of our bodies as a whole.” (RTLTC – 36)


30. “Very interesting, but quite obvious when you stop to think of it, is the indisputable fact that no one modern activity employs all our muscles. The nearest approach to this ideal is found in all-round swimming and fancy diving.” (RTLTC – 45)


31. “How many of us, or rather how few of us, realize what Life really is? Unfortunately, this ecstasy of living, is reserved for and limited only to those comparatively fortunate few who enjoy normal health – your birthright!” (YH – 12)


32. “Generally speaking, the less the average person merely talks about health, the better it is for his health. Not only is health a normal condition, but it is a duty not only to attain but to maintain it. If human beings only knew and only obeyed the simple laws of nature, universal health would follow and the Health Millennium would be here.” (YH – 12)


33. “If the art and science of Contrology were universally accepted and practiced, one could confidently predict that mental anguish and physical suffering would progressively decrease from generation to generation, and life would be a real pleasure, instead of the curse it now is to so many of our fellow men.” (YH – 20)


34. “Millions upon millions live from the cradle to the grave without really knowing themselves and without really knowing what it is all about. If they are familiar with the Greek adage, ‘know thyself’, it is not practically applied to themselves.” (YH – 27)


35. “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.” (RTLTC – 33)


36. “PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor. Practice your exercises diligently with the fixed and unalterable determination that you will permit nothing else to sway you from keeping faith with yourself.” (RTLTC – 40)


37. “Good posture can be successfully acquired only when the entire mechanism of the body is under perfect control. Graceful carriage follows as a matter of course.” (RTLTC – 54)


38. “Never slouch, as doing so compresses the lungs, overcrowds other vital organs, rounds the back, and throws you off the balance.” (RTLTC – 54)

Random Goodies

39. “It is really a rank falsity to believe that one cannot be both strong and healthy without having first to indulge in more or less violent training ‘stunts,’ but unfortunately this erroneous concept is so firmly entrenched in the minds of the general public, that it would probably require the omnipotent power of a deity to dispel this universally accepted nonsense from their minds.” (YH – 29)


40. “Is it not true that animals in their natural state and in their natural habitat exercise naturally as a matter of course?” (YH – 30)


41. “Study carefully. Do not sacrifice knowledge to speed in building your solid exercise regime on the foundation of Contrology. Follow instructions exactly as indicated down to the very smallest detail. There is a reason!” (RTLTC – 44)


42. “You are not interested in merely developing bulging muscles but rather flexible ones. Bulging muscles hinder the attainment of flexibility because the over-developed muscles interfere with the proper development of the under-developed muscles.” (RTLTC – 46)

Sleep Hygiene

43. “Our chairs, benches, settees, sofas, couches and beds seemingly are designed for every other purpose than that of rest, relaxation or sleep – they are in reality the primary cause of our acquiring wrong and harmful postural habits , too numerous for mention here.” (YH – 10)


44. “From a strict humanitarian rather from a purely commercial viewpoint, a close and unbiased study of the reasons responsible for the invariable restless tossings experienced by the average sleeper, can lead to but one definite conclusion with reference to our modern beds – i.e. that while admittedly they are appealing to the eye from an esthetic standpoint and apparently seemingly comfortable, they are, however, as a matter of fact, quite unnatural and impractical for the very purposes that they are supposed to have been originally designed. They do not afford maximum rest and complete relaxation. All they do is to afford a place upon which to toss the body.” (YH – 58)


45. “Now let us consider the important question of good sleep at night. A quiet, cool, well-ventilated room is best. Do not use a soft mattress. ‘Firm but not soft’ is a good rule to follow. Use the lightest possible bed covering consistent with warmth. Do not use large bulky pillows (or as some do, two stacked pillows) – better still, use none at all.” (RTLTC – 52)

The Brain & The Spine

46. “Still less understand the mechanism of the spine and the proper methods of training this ‘foundation’ bone of the body so that its movements will be under their absolute control at all times. Most persons are not aware of the fact that, by reason of this utter lack of understanding, the human spine has been sadly neglected, for many, many generations.” (YH – 44)


47. “Consideration and examination of proved facts pertinent to this subject should quickly convince unbiased medical and other authorities that the human body has for centuries been tortured unnecessarily by reason of our failure to recognize and understand the underlying principles governing the natural mechanism of the human spine, as well as recognizing and understanding the factor of equilibrium with reference to its application to the human body – in motion, at rest, and at sleep.” (YH – 49)


48. “The brain itself is actually a sort of natural telephone switchboard exchange incorporated in our bodies as a means of communication through the sympathetic nervous system to all our muscles.” (RTLTC – 38)


1. Pilates, J.H. (1934). Your Health. Presentation Dynamics. Kindle Edition, pp. 65.


2. Pilates, J.H. (1945). Return to Life Through Contrology. Presentation Dynamics. Kindle Edition, pp. 139.


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