Following The Latest Research on Pilates
Like most forms of movement and exercise, Pilates has undergone changes through the years. The original method was developed by Joseph Pilates in Europe around the time of World War I and was inspired by his own fragile, sickly young self. He dedicated his life to overcoming his ailments and took that into his physical routine. Pilates, or Contrology as it was first called, made it to the United States in 1925 and quickly gained popularity, especially among dancers due to its ability to strengthen the body and rehabilitate areas of weakness, reducing the possibility of injury.
Over time some of Pilates’s disciples opened up their own studios, and in the 1960s, they began making notable changes to the method. These changes resulted in a philosophical rift between Classical Pilates and what is now considered Contemporary Pilates.
Contemporary Pilates evolved through research, with a heavy influence from biomechanics and physical therapy. There were additions and changes made to the original repertoire as well as modifications to the method itself.
One of the biggest shifts involved the position of the lower back. The original method aimed to offset any back pain by encouraging students to perform the exercises in flat back, essentially trying to protect it by flattening the curve of the lumbar spine. Over time, research began to show that avoiding “working” the back was actually counterproductive. Instead, working with the lumbar spine in its natural position was considered more effective because it strengthened the muscles of the back.
Classical vs. Contemporary Pilates
The story of Classical vs. Contemporary Pilates has been around for quite some time and there have been some lines drawn in the sand by many practitioners as far as one being a better method. I had always considered myself in the Contemporary camp as a practitioner. But, guess what? Contemporary Pilates, as a whole, also went into cruise control and stopped evolving. There were a set of rules that were in place, for many valid reasons, and one didn’t stray too far from them.
Now, more practitioners are starting to once again question those rules based on NEW, current research. At first I thought …WHAT?! I happen to be a major rule follower. I like rules, they bring me a sense of comfort. Questioning them was a lot like driving super fast without a seat belt. However, after getting over the shock and actually listening, my mind has been blown. It has been blown in such a “YES, this all makes sense,” kind of way.
Lucky for me, I studied with and was certified by two major aces in the field: Lesley Powell and Doris Pasteleur Hall. They believe in always pushing the boundaries and learning more from the current research. They stayed ahead of it then and still do, which is why I follow them around like a groupie.
But I will admit that, as my bag of tools got larger and my methodology got broader, I began to question if what I was teaching was still actually Pilates. I thought the continuing education I was doing, either on my own, with my book group or with Doris was very outside the box. I loved it and really gravitated towards it but I thought I might be on my own as far as the majority of Contemporary instructors.
Now I am noticing that a large contingent of Pilates teachers and physical therapists are on the same train. It makes sense because the human body is never stagnant, so the methods and modalities that address the body need to evolve too. I always strive to grow as an instructor and so I light up at the prospect of continuing to learn by diving into research and using that information to serve my clients in the best way possible.