Earlier 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!