Joe Pilates stated in his marketing materials:
“YOU CANNOT MAKE yourself strong, healthy and attractive (…) by reading all the books in the world on this subject.”
And while I agree that Pilates is something you should DO, and not read, there are some exceptional books out there that will undoubtedly enhance your practice, whether you are a student or a teacher of Pilates. Here are my personal top 5 Pilates books.
- Joseph H. Pilates: Return To Life Through Contrology (1945)
Written by the man himself, it’s evident that this should be read by anyone who practices and teaches Pilates. At 17 text pages it’s an incredibly quick read. In addition to the philosophy behind Contrology, this book includes the original 34 Mat exercises, with brief explanations and pictures of Joseph performing the movements himself – at age 65! If you only read one Pilates related book, it should be this one.
- Joseph H. Pilates: Your Health (1934)
This is Joe’s first publication, and a testament of his philosophies, principles, and theories about health and fitness. He doesn’t shy away from strong opinions and words to express them, but it’s a fascinating read and shows that his doctrines were years ahead of his time.
- Alycea Ungaro: Pilates: Body In Motion (2002)
Whenever students ask me to recommend a book that can help them practice their Mat work at home and dig a little deeper into the exercises, this is my go-to advice. The book offers a wonderful breakdown of the classical Mat work and suitable for the Pilates novice and advanced student alike. This one is my favorite, but I truly recommend all of Alycea’s publications. She is not just an excellent author, but also one of the smartest and most passionate people in the Pilates realm I know, and it clearly shows in every written word.
- Daniel Lyon: Pilates For Men (2005)
Daniel Lyon clarifies that this was an exercise system designed BY a man and FOR men. It’s fantastically written and I love the artistic pencil drawings of the exercises. In addition to the Mat work, Daniel includes the Archival Reformer workout performed on the Mat, which makes this book an excellent resource for practitioner AND teacher – male and female.
- Arthur Thomson: The Handbook of Anatomy for art students (1896)
With the books mentioned above, there is hardly anything left to say about Pilates. But there’s much to say about what inspired Joe Pilates to create his work in the first place. Arthur Thomson’s “Handbook of Anatomy” was among the books that Joe read while developing his methods of physical culture. You can read more about the book here.