When Did Pilates Become the Easy Option?

bored with PilatesEarlier today as I was pushing myself through a challenging Tower workout, a discussion I recently had with a colleague came to mind. She commented that when she could not be bothered to do a proper workout she went to a Pilates class. So when did Pilates become the easy option?

This made me reflect on how many clients have experienced Pilates as just “lying on a mat, hardly moving”.  They have never been taught The Teaser, Corkscrew or even heard of the Boomerang. Is this because they lose interest before they reach a perceived level of skill, is it due to their inability to execute the move or is it because of the instructor’s concern for potential injury? With so many clients encouraged to do Pilates after injury or to help manage low back pain are instructors forced into teaching a style of class which reduces perceived risk rather than challenges the ability of each individual?

Exercises which have evolved from Pilates are, of course, an excellent rehabilitation tool, although I believe the focus on mindful, precise and controlled movement rather than any specific cueing of muscle activation allows clients to regain confidence in their movement and take responsibility for their recovery. But this is not Pilates but rather Pilates-inspired exercise.

For the normal, healthy client surely we should be challenging them to the limit of their ability, to enhance their strength, flexibility and mobility with every exercise. Why should a beginner spend the first class lying on their back, lifting a heel when in simply walking into the class and picking up a mat they have worked far harder? Some may argue that the integral precision and technique of Pilates are only attained by working gradually through the levels but the incredible rhythm and coordination of the movements are not found by reducing the exercise to floating a heel while fixing the pelvis. As Joe Pilates states,

PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE are vital qualities in the ultimate accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavour”

He recommends practising Pilates daily to achieve the ability to perfectly execute moves, not five repetitions once a week of a severely reduced, modified version. If, as instructors we promote the often quoted benefits of Pilates that,

 “Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit”

then surely we should strive to achieve Joe Pilates original intentions, to teach each and every move, modifying or omitting only where necessary to suit the individual, encouraging daily practise, until our clients can perform them with control, fluidity and precision.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments as always!

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7 thoughts on “When Did Pilates Become the Easy Option?

  1. Thank you for this blog! I have spent 2 years loving pilates and sharing that love with clients In a very protective and quite frankly boring fashion. I was trained to modify, modify and modify! I have had an internal battle with myself having lost confidence in the whole repertoire as I was urged to teach beginner repertoire. I have remained cautious to the brink of boredom and on reflection I have probably lost clients because of it. Since qualifying I have attended training with Jpilates and a variety of workshops that have all challenged my protective style. This blog encourages me to unclip my pilates wings and to unleash my imagination to teach the original rep and get my clients moving and leaving the session feeling challenged. Watch this space!

    • I can’t wait to see you fly Leona!It is hard though as often in training you are given a set pathway, and of course we do need to be aware of limitations but I think as you say we begin to apply this to all clients regardless of capability. Let me know how you get on Leona!

  2. Good article. I do think a lot of Pilates in the UK has become lie on your back with head support doing knee floats for an hour… a lot of the public perceive Pilates as gentle exercise for people with back issues… and while those Pre-Pilates exercises are great for injured or older clients it can get really boring for healthy fit people – and the original 34 are so athletic! That’s why I found your Jay Grimes blog really interesting as obviously he advocates ‘not babying’ clients…. brilliant!

    At this time of year (all those New Year resolutions in January…) when you get lots of new people joining existing classes it’s especially hard to get the level right. I want my fitter clients to feel challenged without scaring off or injuring the new people…. Arhh 1:1 sessions are so much easier 🙂

    • I completely agree! It is such a fine line to tread which is why I think a perceived “playing it safe” has become the norm. I must get down to your studio one day for a 1:1! 🙂

  3. I think there is a confusion, especially with the public as to what is Pilates for beginners. These days, beginners classes are mainly people with either a back injury, knee/shoulders issues, much more prime (can’t say old can I?) and with either osteoporosis or artherisis. How can you teach them Pilates?! it is much more Pilates inspired class, very low key, a lot of modifications – I dont want to be help responsible for any health issues! quite a few of them are actully there because their doctors told them to ”do Pilates”. I wish there was PIlates for healthy and able beginners.
    occasionally when I teach intermediate class, I t each the 34 moves (ok, 31..) I do say; if you have an injury, lower back pains or any other issues – this is not the class for you..”
    henstly – its the best class as they are pushed to their limits and discover yet again how hard this discipline is!

  4. Pingback: It’s time we stopped ‘using’ Pilates and just did it? | alittlefitter

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