So I read this on a blog the other day, and, well, it kinda made me sad:
"One casualty was Lisa Brinkworth. Lisa is a resident of Buckinghamshire, England and the mother of three small sons. Last year, she started taking Pilates at a local studio and was inspired by a fellow student to sign up for a twice weekly “planking” competition. Initially she was excited by the planking event and did her best to hold the pose longer and longer. Around Christmas, Lisa began suffering what she describes as an “excruciating pain in the left side of my chest.” The pain was so bad that she feared she was having a heart attack or had developed breast cancer. Doctors finally diagnosed her condition as “costochondritis,” an inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone. “How many of us,” she wondered, “are putting ourselves at risk of such a painful unnecessary injury?”
Now, I want to be very clear. I do not want to start to compare Pilates with barre classes. I take barre workouts and enjoy them. The first class I was ever certified to teach was the New York City Ballet Workout, which could easily be described as a barre workout (without the barre, it's all done standing in center). So let's not go there. This is not about what is better or worse.
For me, this is about Pilates and how we teach it. Did you see the pictures of the planking on the blog? It's bodies piled on top of each other. How is this Pilates? What part of Pilates should involve a competition?
I believe that Pilates should be taught as a movement system. I believe Joe taught it that way. It's one of the things that makes Pilates, well, Pilates. So what is a movement system? It's process-oriented, non-competitive, and non-intimidating. A movement system should stimulate the senses, the mind, and motor skill development. It should focus on breathing and regeneration of energy. I think you could ask any of my clients and they would say this is how we teach Pilates at JSP. But I teach it that way because I think it honors the way Joe taught it. Contrast Joseph Pilates' quotes below with the experience that poor woman had:
"Contrology (Pilates) is complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit. Through Contrology (Pilates), you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then, through proper repetition of its exercises, you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities."
"Beginning with the introductory series, each succeeding exercise should be mastered before proceeding progressively with the following exercises."
or my favorite:
"A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion."
If we honor Joseph's work, we must teach Pilates as a movement system. Even if we cannot agree on imprinting or order or neutral pelvis, can we at least agree on this? I don't want to ever see Pilates mentioned in an article entitled "The Good and Bad of Extreme Workouts." Really. If you're teaching something that extreme that you are putting bodies on top of one another, working people past the point of exhaustion, and competing one person against another, can you please just not call it Pilates? Because it really isn't.
The saddest thing about the blog post? I agree with the author's point. She writes, "The best way to transform your body remains training under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher and committing yourself to regular, focused practice." I couldn't agree more, I just would call that "Pilates."