Is There Any Pilates in Your Pilates? Part 2


Note: This is the second part of a two-piece article. Please read Part I for the full content.

Do you know which moves are Pilates and which aren't? How about equipment? Are you clear what equipment is actually for Pilates? With fusion techniques incorporating Pilates based, or Pilates-like moves or simply stating that their techniques are Pilates inspired, it seems like we're getting more Pilates than ever before.

Look closely though, because it's actually getting harder and harder to tell if you're getting actual Pilates as we get farther and farther from the source.

Here's a quick and dirty guide to some things Joe Pilates did and didn't include in his original method.

1. Props.

Joe made Reformers, raised upholstered mats, large and small equipment with springs and more. He did not make exercise bands, foam rollers or large exercise balls. 

2.  Stretching.

Joe included dynamic stretching, and sequential strengthening routines with and without resistance. However, he did not employ prolonged stretching methods or static hold stretching.

3. Music.

The original Pilates studio may have occasionally employed ambient music but the Pilates workout was never set to music by Joe or his wife Clara Pilates. The rhythm was the rhythm of your heartbeat. 

4. Technique.

Pilates was the only workout you did when you came to Joe's Gym.

Of course back then, it was called Contrology. You did not blend Jazz, Aerobics, Yoga or Boxing. The technique was self-contained and needed no extras. This is still the case. When at Pilates, do Pilates.

5. Environment.

Joe liked fresh air and light filled workout space. There is plenty of footage of him exercising outdoors.

He did not dim the lights or heat the room. Pilates creates the body's own heat and you'll want to see what you're doing so proper lighting is a good idea.

6. Om.

Joseph recommended everyone complete their workout with a brisk shower and some dry-brushing. He did not include a meditation or quiet breathing time at the end of his workouts.

Don't misunderstand me. If you are a ballet teacher or an athletic coach or any other physical education instructor and you use parts of Pilates or Pilates concepts to further your students training, I think Joe Pilates would be happy. And by all means, keep doing that.

Similarly, if you have found a class and a teacher that you love, that has changed your life and that uses Pilates blended with some other exercise system, please continue.

However, If you want to learn the Pilates mat work as Joe Pilates himself laid it out, grab any one of a dozen great books on the topic.  Some of my favorites include:

  • Pilates Body in Motion by yours truly.

If you prefer to see it performed live, check out which showcases a host of Pilates professionals executing original Pilates according to the lineage of Joseph Pilates and the original students he trained.

Deciding whether or not Pilates is for you requires that you actually experience real Pilates. The next time you are looking for a Pilates class, take note of what is and isn't included. You might be surprised how little Pilates is actually in your workout. Do your homework and find a way to experience the original work the way Joseph Pilates intended.

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