Pilates Discovery: A Long Lost Book

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Every now and then a piece of Pilates history reveals itself in an interview or article or even on eBay. Recently I was lucky enough to secure one of those vintage pieces; an out of print book by Pilates Elder Carola Trier titled "Exercise, What it is,What it Does?" Written in 1982, the book is clearly intended for children but a quick read through verifies that this book has much to offer for exercisers of any age.

Beginning with her definition of exercise - "Exercise is body movement that has a purpose", and moving on to specific exercise routines, this book covers the essentials of fitness in a simple and easy to use format. 

Carola Trier was an important protege' of Joseph Pilates. She was first a student, then a teacher and finally a studio owner taking up shop just blocks from her mentor Mr. Pilates. As a former dancer, she had an instant audience and easily grew her roster of clients. Beyond that, her personal interest in injuries and rehabilitation led Carola to be one of the few Pilates teachers to make headway in the medical community working with physicians and orthopedic surgeons for the benefit of her clients. It's safe to assume that her focus on body mechanics and optimal bio-mechanical function led her to the idea that we should begin with the youngest generation. 

"Exercise What it is, What is does" is divided into a few simple sections with an over riding theme.

Namely, that your body is structured much as a building is with a foundation, pillars and multiple floors. The parts are represented by the feet, legs and trunk and head respectively. Carola uses this simple analogy to explain the function of the human body. What is interesting about her approach is that while the image of a building is visually impactful, Carola uses it largely to inspire the idea that this structure must be cared for and maintained in order to be truly useful.

In the Foot and Leg section, Carola outlines a series of individual exercises, each called a "trick". Moving up the body she works through toe and ankle exercises to standing walking and climbing moves. Posture and breathing are included and addressed before the running and stair stepping exercises. Throughout the conditioning moves, a sly cat is illustrated and offers extra commentary on other times you might execute the move. For example, classic sit ups are included 'for strong stomach muscles". Carola instructs us to do this move on the floor or in bed while our clever cat friend offers up that we might also do this in the morning when we wake up.  Throughout the book, Mr. Cat is always there with useful tips.

By far my favorite part of the book is the Fun with Friends section. It demonstrates a slew of moves you can do with a partner that involve squatting, stretching and shoulder bridging as well as many others. Partnering up back to back for wall slides and foot to foot for abdominal bicycles is both effective and entertaining.

Throughout the fifty five pages of illustration and instruction exercise is consistently depicted as fun and accessible.

For children and adults alike, Carola poses a simple question with a simple answer. If you play ball, run, go to the gym or dance - Why should you exercise? The answer - "To do all these things better."

Better, indeed.

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