Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Are you a Pilates Snob?

I admit it I am a Pilates Snob.

I was trained in Classical Pilates and believe this to be Pilates. Although the other styles intrigue me and I like some of the preps and modifications, to me Classical Pilates equals Pilates.

There is a reason Classical Pilates follows a series of movements. The Pilates Method is based on principals like Control, Precision, and Concentration. Classical Pilates is like the trunk of a tree. Firmly rooted into the ground, growing from its foundation upward and branching outward to expand.

When I enter a Pilates class there are certain things that I expect. Personally, I expect to see certain exercises in a certain series or flow, however I am open to some modifications and other excercises that may help build into those Classical exercises. I expect to see and hear certain themes and principles of the Pilates Method conveyed throughout the session.

So what exactly is the difference between Classical and Modern Pilates? In talking with colleagues this week I asked their opinion on the matter and was pleased to find that most of them fell into the same category of beliefs as myself. I believe Classical Pilates to be the teachings that were handed down from Joseph Pilates (and his wife Clara) to a group of his students, know as Pilates Elders in our community. These include such teachers as Romana Kryzanowska, Lolita San Miguel, Eve Gentry, Mary Bowen, Ron Fletcher, Kathy Grant, and Carola Trier. These Elders then taught their students who became teachers, who taught their students who became teachers, and so on. And somewhere along the journey teachers have taken the teachings of Joe and added their interpretations, scientific backgrounds in exercise and kinesiology, and other disciplines (i.e. yoga, kickboxing, Franklin Method, etc) to the core Pilates exercises branding their style into the Modern Pilates category. STOTT Pilates defines their style of Modern as incorporating “current knowledge of exercise science & spinal rehab into the principles of Pilates”.

I view the training like a box of crayons, you have to start with the primary colors first. Understand what each of those colors involves, means, and represents, before starting to add in more diverse colors. That is not to say that blue is any better of a color than turquoise for example, however it is understanding that turquoise has a base of blue at its root and becomes turquoise by adding to it some other primary colors like yellow and green. Not better but diluted, changed, and different in its own right. Many of these Modern schools add much value to the Pilates world and commnity and do have their roots in the Method. After teaching for over ten years I believe that I have a strong enough root into the method to begin to be open to these new, modern styles. I think it is very important that as we begin to expand and incorporate these new ideas that the Pilates Method does not begin to play out like a bad game of Telephone, where the outcome is so far away from the original message.


  1. I believe Jay Grimes is also an elder.

    It's funny - I work with someone from NY and he says there's classical Pilates and "everything else." I love the exercises, order and flow using the classical method in which I was trained -- but I also know that there is room for other styles. However, I do hate it when people with little or no training teach what they call Pilates with no basis in the original method.

    Thanks for the great blog post!

  2. I think it is critical for all teachers of Pilates or any derivation of the Method to be schooled in the texts & works of Joe. If you don't know where you're coming from, you can't know where you're going.

    I think an argument can be made that if you are not teaching exactly as Joe did, you are not teaching Pilates. (Full disclosure: I am trained in the Modern style.) And I am okay with that. I also think we could argue nobody knows how his method might have evolved were he alive today. Regardless of whether I begin my Mat classes supine with The Hundred or standing with a few exercises to warm up the spine in all planes of movement, I am cognizant of these things: Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breath, and Flow.

    If I integrate other methods into a class, such as Thera-band exercises from Eric Franklin's Conditioning for Dance, I always make a point of telling my clients. They need to be aware of what is & what is not Pilates (also what is & what is not Franklin Method). I also inform them at their first session/class the differences between the 2 schools of Pilates & how I was trained.

    At the end of the day, I care not whether a teacher was Classical or Modern trained, but more importantly if they teach according to the principles, safely & with integrity for the Method's sake.

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for Joe & his vision for overall health. I am drawn to both Classical & Modern instructors who strive to inspire others towards his goal of wellness for everybody.

  3. That's my kid.....
    Love, Proud Mom