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Classical versus Contemporary Pilates

Over the last decade Pilates has developed significantly, we now have a greater understanding of the bio mechanics of the human body. As a result of this there are new styles of Pilates being developed every day. Some people are concerned however as they feel that it has deviated from its original state and they criticise contemporary forms of Pilates for not being true to Joseph Pilates original vision. Are you a traditionalist or are you prepared to evolve with the modern way? This article will help you decide!

What is Classical Pilates?

Classical Pilates at the most basic level is a discipline. Joseph Pilates created a set order of exercises on the reformer and mat. A true classical Pilate’s instructor won’t deviate from this order when they conduct their classes (although some exceptions are made for experience and physical capabilities). His intentions for this set order were to provide an easy structure for future teachers to follow that balances the mind and body. Classical Pilates practitioners have drawn a proverbial line in the sand, they state that only the most original exercises can be deemed as Pilates, any deviant shouldn’t be associated with this form of exercise.

Purists argue that we shouldn’t deviate from Joseph Pilate’s original order of exercises because they work! Pilates truly was a genius, he crafted the mind and body into balance. Attempting a more modernised version of these movements could create an imbalance. Pilates’ original exercises are simple, challenging and deep enough to study for a life time. Why fix what’s not broken?

One of the main differences between a classical teacher and a contemporary Pilates teacher is that in Joseph Pilates’ original form he generally taught abdominal exercises in a posterior tilt. This meant when the client was lying on their back the lower spine was completely pressed against the floor, creating a tuck in the pelvis. Contemporary Pilates teaches techniques involving a neutral pelvis (the position of the pelvis when you are standing up). Due to the curvature of the spine there will be a gap between the floor and the back.

What is Contemporary Pilates?

Contemporary Pilates is also based around Joseph Pilates original exercises but has been modernised due to more recent research and influences regarding bio mechanics and physical therapy. They may still incorporate some of the original exercises, but there are also a wide range of new new exercises that have been added, or variations added for specific needs.

More modern teachers have deviated from Pilates’ original exercises by encouraging their clients to relax their buttocks and glutes in order to lower the pelvis and remain balanced. They also open collarbones and draw the shoulder blades down and encourage more flowing movement to develop leaner muscles.

The modern teacher will tell you that Pilates was an innovator. Unfortunately he passed away nearly 50 years ago in 1967, however throughout his lifetime he was continuously looking for methods to develop his creation. Over the last 50 years we have made many important biological discoveries, as well as developed computers and smart phones which will tighten shoulders and hips whilst increasing kyphosis in the thoracic spine. Contemporary Pilates teachers will tell you that Joseph would have evolved and would be the first to drive change.

Contemporary or Classical Pilates?

At PTTI we believe that although both opinions are valid, not all clients bodies are the same. The modern teacher needs to teach to the modern body, and that may be a structure too unsuited to the Classical Method. Posterior pelvic tilt for one is a fairly hazardous position for most desk sitters. More extension needs to be taught. And new evidence is arriving every day. Here at PTTI we are constantly attending conferences and courses in search of new data, methods and science. We bring myofascial release techniques form Myers , gait mechanics from Earls, and safe Yoga practices for Bone Health into all of our courses. So, remembering how different our students bodies are to the NYC Ballet dancers Joseph taught, and adhering to newest safe spine principals, PTTI is most certainly the Contemporary kind.

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