Return to Life and Other Pilates Resources – Recommendations for Books, DVD's, and Apps to Grow Your Pilates Expertise

by | Sep 20, 2011 | Pilates | 1 comment

Wonderful questions I received this week about Joseph Pilates book Return to Life, and other Pilates Matwork book & DVD resources for Pilates teachers and students.  Keep reading this post to see the questions I’ve been asked, and my thoughts on the topic of publication quality, content, and the benefits of different Pilates exercise resources on the market.


Dear Aliesa,

On your website you have a copy of RETURN TO LIFE and a product with a man who demonstrates all the MAT EXERCISES. I have two questions for you:

  1. I have a copy of the MILLENNIUM Edition of the book and I am disappointed with quality and limited number of photo-images, plus, the description of how to perform the exercises is not good really. Is the book you sell any better please? Would be nice to have one of the originals that Sean Gallagher owns, but, the cost is far beyond my means!
  2. May I ask you what is difference between the Mat DVD demonstrated by Peter Fiasca’s, Your DVD demonstration of Pilates Matwork,  and old archival footage as seen on the internet?

I look forward to your reply with much anticipation.


Hi, Thanks for your questions about Return to Life & Pilates Matwork DVD’s.  Seems like I have multiple copies of Return to Life and Joe’s other book, Your Health somewhere in my library.  At the moment, they’ve acquired legs – so I’m writing this from my experience, not having my books sitting in front of me to compare.

Return to Life by Joseph H. Pilates

I do agree that the quality of the photos is poor in my Joseph Pilates books published by Presentation Dynamics. The photos could have been lightened a bit, but when you’re working with historical footage it’s never going to be as clear and crisp as the HD photos we’re taking today.

The version of Return to Life that is for sale on my website was published by the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA).  I don’t think the text is any different between the different republished versions of this book.  I’ve never actually sat down with my two different copies of Return to Life and compared the text.  Because this is the actual book that Joseph Pilates wrote, the descriptions for the exercises in this book were written by Joe!  If you’re disappointed with the amount of detail in these descriptions, it’s not the publishers fault…this is what Joe felt was important for you to know to execute the Matwork exercises.

It seems to me that the photos in the PMA’s republished version of Return to Life are of a better quality.  But they are still historical photos of Joe executing the exercises – so don’t expect a HD photo!

I agree, it would be wonderful to own an original copy of Return to Life!  But the information contained in the original, the Millennium edition you own, and the PMA’s edition is the exactly the same.  So from a content standpoint, you’ve got the information that Joseph Pilates intended you to have to be able to read, understand, and execute the exercises.

Centerworks Pilates Matwork Resources:

You also mentioned a man who’s demonstrating  the Mat exercises in products on my site.  I believe the products you’re referencing are two of my Pilates Matwork Audio CD/MP3 workouts.  Beginer-intermediate Pilates Matwork with Flow – 23 exercises, and Intermediate Pilates Matwork -35 exercises.  These are actual Mat workouts, but are AUDIO recordings I have created for people who are familiar with the exercises to use and listen to for their at-home Pilates workouts.  Because these are audio products, there are no pictures or descriptions of the exercises (as in books or videos).  The man on the cover of these CD’s  was a client in my studio – and I wanted  men and women to know they can participate in Pilates!  Thought a male cover model might help encourage men to purchase this workout!  Real Men Do Pilates too!

I believe that every vendor for Pilates Teacher-Training Programs has some sort of reference materials for the repertoire of Pilates exercises in their program.  For the Centerworks program, my reference materials are in book form.  For Pilates Matwork, Centerworks has 3 separate training manuals basic, intermediate, and advanced.  Again – these were created before the slick HD cameras were available, so picture quality is OK, but not HD!

  • The Centerworks Basic Mat manual includes the beginner Pilates Mat exercises and a 4 week outline with guidelines for teaching/progressing  through the exercises.
  • The Centerworks Intermediate Mat manual has photos & descriptions for all the basic and intermediate Pilates Mat exercises.
  • The Centerworks Advanced manual only contains photos & descriptions for the advanced exercises – you need to be familiar with the intermediate Matwork, so you can follow the outline for layering  and progressing to the Advanced level.

 On a side note:  People who participate in my workshops, Pilates Teacher-Training Program, workshops, classes, and private training learn much more info, details, variations, and valuable insights for every exercise.  I believe this should be true for any and every Pilates teacher you work with.  Since I am learning new things daily – I feel obliged to pass it on!

Pilates  DVD’s , Videos, and App’s

  • The Peter Fiasca Classical Pilates DVD’s are excellent videos of the full New York, Romana lineage, classical Pilates repertoire.  These DVD’s follow a basic, intermediate, and advanced format so you can see the exercises that are designed to be executed at each level.  Repetitions, and tips for execution are included for each exercise.   I believe these are valuable resources if you already know the exercises and have been working with a classically trained instructor.  But there may be numerous exercises (especially when you get to equipment exercises in this DVD series) that are either historical, or advanced beyond what is reasonably safe and beneficial for an average client.  The DVD’s do a pretty good job of pointing some of these exercises out.  I would not encourage someone to purchase these DVD’s  and just begin to follow along for a workout, as there may be some exercises that are unsafe or inappropriate based on personal health history.  The opportunity to modify, break things down to work at an appropriate level, and possibly progress into some of the more intermediate and advanced exercises over time is a part of the benefit of working with a well-qualified Pilates teacher to help you along.
  • One of my favorite archival Pilates videos is available from Pilates Elder – Mary Bowen, she usually has copies with her if you’re lucky enough to see her at the PMA conference or other workshop or event.  Otherwise – I recommend contacting Mary directly to order.  Everyone should see this it’s wonderful footage of Joe!
  • Michele Larsson has several wonderful videos of Eve Gentry.  One is a workshop with Eve, the other is a documentary, “Eve Gentry and the Power of Pilates” that contains historical footage of Joseph Pilates working with her.  –You’ll find both of these videos on the Core Dynamics Pilates website. 
  • Michael Miller is another very good Pilates teacher with resources available on his website. He has also recently created an app for Pilates – “the Michael Miller Pilates Library” available in the iTunes store.
  • And I recently saw ads for Pilates Interactive, which for a monthly fee, you can subscribe to resources from the BASI Pilates and Polestar Pilates programs.  I have not become a subscriber for this so cannot give you an opinion on content, but it’s one more in the growing list of available options for Pilates resources.

 Please keep in mind… 

You will never get ALL the information and details you need to learn Pilates from a book or video! 

Books and videos are great reference materials to help remember the exercises, but nothing compares to having an actual teacher looking at your body to give you personal cues for body awareness and improvement.  And keep in mind that different teachers, with different backgrounds, and different levels of experience & expertise can help you see and feel different things to improve your health, fitness, and execution of your Pilates exercises.

I am almost eighteen years into my Pilates teaching career and personal Pilates practice, and I am amazed that I continue to learn new things about each exercise and how the body works DAILY!!!  It’s possible to spend a lifetime continuing to dig into the details of each exercise, and we still probably won’t know all there is to know.  I don’t think there will ever be a single resource on the planet that can comprehensively tell you everything you need to know about Pilates!  It’s a nice thought…but I believe, quite an impossible task.

I feel blessed to be a “Classically” trained Pilates teacher.  AND, I am also conscious of the fact that I have learned tons of non-classical information that has added wonderful layers and depth to my experience & expertise.  At this point in my career – I probably know at least 3-5 different versions of each exercise, plus versions with props, multiple versions to modify each exercise, multiple versions to make exercises more challenging, multiple transitions, many different breath patterns, and lots of options to change the rhythm and dynamics of each exercise.  And this knowledge base continues to grow….  All choices, based on the needs and goals of my clients.

There aren’t “right” and “wrong” versions of the Pilates exercises

– Just “Different” versions. 

Different versions for each Pilates exercise may be
better/worse, safer/more dangerous, help you improve more quickly/ slower.
All of this depends on who you are, your level of fitness, and health history.

You can’t put ALL of this in one book or video – it would only confuse people.  It’s best to have a BASE version that is your primary way to execute each exercise.  Then be aware that there are lots of ways to tweak things to help deepen your body awareness, and body mechanics for better execution, strength, flexibility, and flow.  Different books, and videos from different teachers with different backgrounds, from different lines of Pilates lineages can help layer in some of this information to your knowledge base and expertise.

Hope I’ve provided you with a few new resources, and perhaps some food for thought when analyzing the different choices available to continue growing your Pilates knowledge.

May we all continue to evolve and grow in our depth of understanding for whole-body health, wellness, and personal development – Mind, Body, and Spirit,  for our own bodies and to share with EVERY Body else!  If you have additional resources you feel have been of great benefit to you, don’t keep it a secret – please share!

Have a Fit & Fabulous Day.


Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.

1 Comment

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