May 31, 2017
CoreAlign and Human Harmony: Standing Pilates? by Jonathan Hoffman
To various degrees, Joseph Pilates has been in my mind for the last 30 years. I will never forget the first time we “met”, back in the in the mid-eighties when I was an ambitious undergraduate PT student. Our class was invited to visit a local Pilates studio and introduced to the impressive wooden equipment as well as the holistic philosophy, history and pictures (of course) of Joseph Pilates. We felt the exercises firsthand and I was mesmerized how the very cool, relaxed and confident instructors softly corrected the beautiful dancers performing their harmonious routines in the background. They did offer to enroll us in an instructor course but, at twenty-three years old, I was unfortunately only interested in windsurfing and squash and my brain was probably on overload studying for exams. However, I was kindly told that the door to Pilates is always open.
Alas, my absolute personal and professional commitment to holistic movement training did not happen until 20 years later and then only after inventing the CoreAlign. The pre-invention (late 1990s) was an enclosed single cart designed to provide partial weight bearing single leg exercises for recovering athletes. The moment of CoreAlign serendipity occurred in 2004, when I fabricated a new kind of unit with two independent standing carts, one for each leg. This transformed it into a novel standalone device for full weight-bearing movement training of the self-balanced upright body. Soon after, the familiar CoreAlign ‘magic’ sensation was felt for the first time. The CoreAlign quickly became my main go-to tool and was extremely successful in managing a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions.
It became the vehicle through which I taught people how to stand upright, breathe correctly and stabilize their pelvis while moving their legs loosely and naturally in separation as if they were walking. The level of harmonious exercises disclosed the face value of functional recovery; advanced variations of the same exercises eventually indicated when clients were ready for discharge. However, the big CoreAlign eye opener occurred when a group of demanding ladies conspired and collectively refused to stop their classes after recovery – “Why stop now when we feel so good?”
The subsequent CoreAlign prototypes transformed my PT practice from an environment of injury and pain to one of health and fun. Soon after the original CoreAlign curriculum was developed and instructor training got began, students told me how close the CoreAlign method is to Pilates. To understand more, I promptly revisited the old Pilates studio and formally enrolled to become a Mat instructor through which I learned that the basic philosophy, movement understanding and cueing instructions of Pilates were similar to the CoreAlign training. I felt goose pimples when the late Mr. Pilates taught me things about my invention I didn’t know. Shortly thereafter, I contacted Ken Endelman from Balanced Body and the production CoreAlign model was born.
Today, thanks to the belief and investment of Balanced Body, the Reformer, Cadillac, Wanda Chair and the CoreAlign are widespread in Pilates studios and PT clinics worldwide. Standing mind-body exercises are now helping people to recover from spinal cord injury, allowing top athletes and dancers to get conditioned in a healthy natural environment and enabling thousands of instructors to provide tens of thousands of people with a much-desired healthy upright active lifestyle.
Over the last four years, I have been developing Human Harmony, an equipment-free holistic standing method, derived from the original CoreAlign exercises. Human Harmony has a sequence of 30 standing exercises divided into 3 levels. The exercises simulate a wide variety of important upright functions and, similarly to CoreAlign exercises, emphasis is placed on breathing, moving, stretching, returning and relaxing harmoniously with conscious coordination and precise full-body timing. Like Mat Pilates, the exercises are studied in the studio and (should be) practiced daily at home. Human Harmony is special because the goal is to automize (by practice) these standing exercises until they all can be performed harmoniously (not fast), in sequence and in less than 4 minutes. Reaching this level might require many months of training with an instructor (like all fine arts) but the effort is worthwhile because the movement quality progresses so rapidly during the process and the functional benefits are maintained with ease and even fun. The free Human Harmony App is for movement instructors and students to learn, practice and teach unrestrictedly. You will find slow motion videos, animations and detailed text descriptions for all the Human Harmony exercises.
So, can CoreAlign and Human Harmony be considered “Standing Pilates”?
Technically, of course, CoreAlign and Human Harmony are not Pilates because they were developed separately and the exercises are different. Joseph Pilates was filmed conducting and demonstrating physical-culture standing exercises but none were included in his Contrology sequence. Pilates even stated in Return to Life: “Note that all the exercises are performed while you are in a sitting or reclining position.”
Despite me being a standing exercise nag, I have humble respect and admiration towards today’s purist Pilates community members who follow his philosophy and exercises precisely. I am a lifetime fan of yours and cannot say this any clearer: Whoever adheres to the Joseph Pilates’ philosophy and does his original exercises harmoniously and regularly will enjoy a great mind and body and will also gain (on average) 15 additional years of happy, youthful, healthy and good-looking life. All his promises have proven themselves right time and time again.
Yet, I also respect the Pilates instructors who have a desire to take whatever they do to the next level. It is totally natural to “get into” the mindset of a great creator who passed away, take new developments into account and then speculate what his or her next big move might have been. On a day-to-day basis in the studio, Joseph Pilates was a creative movement instructor who strived to provide the most appropriate exercises for his clients. If by chance he would have opened his studio near Madison Square Garden and worked predominantly with basketball players, we might have had different exercises and different machines; but one thing you can trust: the adamant mind-body holistic philosophy of Joseph Pilates would have remained exactly the same.
But what would he do today? Would he be tempted to betray his holistic movement principles and drift towards the über-popular strength-training and over-conditioning trend because “that’s what the people want”? This was answered blatantly in Return to Life: “Contrology is not a system of haphazard exercises designed to produce only bulging muscles…. Rather, it was conceived to limber and stretch muscles and ligaments so that your body will be as supple as that of a cat and not muscular like the body of a brewery-truck horse.”
To conclude, I believe that if Joseph Pilates had been with us for another 50 years, he would have continued to relentlessly study animal motion as well as mastering the latest of human movement science. It is therefore not beyond imagination that he himself would have opened our eyes to the unchartered and unlimited magical mystery tours of upright holistic training.
Contrology 2.0 perhaps?
Jonathan Hoffman is an Australian educated manual physiotherapist, international mind-body educator, human movement researcher and published author from Tel Aviv, Israel. He has worked with profes-sional tennis, basketball and track & field athletes as well as world and European champion water-skiers. Jonathan is the developer of novel mind-body exercise methods and devices like the ATM2, Co-reAlign, Human Harmony and NanoRun (Launching later this year).
Peer reviewed articles:
• The origins of Western mind-body exercise methods. Physical Therapy Reviews, 2016.
• Re: Merger of models on clinical instability – Misleading for patients and clinicians. Manual Therapy, 2016.
• Expanding Panjabi’s stability model to express movement: A theoretical model. Medical Hypothesis, 2013.
• Being Fit, 2014.
• The Bongo Dogs, 2014.