Does Traditional Pilates Need to Evolve?


Does our society’s lack of upper body awareness make traditional Pilates a difficult choice?

I come from that strict, traditional pilates training background. Pilates is such an interesting meld of Eastern movement principles, coupled with the efficient and rigorous German aesthetic.

There is a specific order of specific exercises. Every detail matters.

A rigid structure is important for creating a fundamental base of the exercises and knowledge of Pilates’ intent.


Over time, the teaching of these fundamentals can be shaped by both the instructor’s style and by the real bodies of clients. This is the creative and evolving human nature. Parallel movement ideas emerge and deviate, like Gyrotonic, Yamuna Body Rolling, and various core and balance training techniques adopted by the trainer at the gym, all striving to find the ideal for the human condition.

Here is the thought I pose to you:

Although traditional understanding is important, do you think Pilates needs to evolve to accommodate our changing bodies? Has it already?

Lets face it, technology has changed how we live.

Joseph Pilates created his method one hundred years ago, when people did more with their bodies throughout the day in general. Even the in-between movements are going the way of the dinosaur;  we have dishwashers, elevators, microwaves, and cell phones. Today most people spend their time sitting. We sit: in front of a computer, at a desk, watching tv, driving their car, etc.  Not much reason to get up…except for, perhaps, an hour of exercise.

The most common problems observed seem to stem from sitting: pressure on the back, neck, and the rounding forward of the shoulders. Each misalignment fuels the next. Lack of understanding and awareness of the upper body results in weak abdominals and a weak core.

The beginning of traditional mat pilates starts lying supine and drawing up the “chin to the chest”. This move alone seems to create gobs of neck and shoulder tension. Personally, it would be easy to spend an hour just on correct posturing of the upper body. Compromising, I spend the first 10 minutes of class finding ways to create postural awareness, later moving to a more traditional format…sometimes. Truth is, the longer I teach, the more my beginning classes look less like traditional Pilates and more like movement therapy.

Do you have a hard time getting clients to understand the importance of posture? Or, do you prefer to just keep them moving? Do you stick to the classic moves, or do you mix it up? Do you believe any long-term effective exercise program should include mind/body awareness.

By creating a dialogue, right here, perhaps a more cohesive understanding of the body could be brought to light.

What do you think?


One response to “Does Traditional Pilates Need to Evolve?

  1. I totally agree. Some days it’s just about movement, but for the most part, I believe the reason people choose Pilates is to stand tall and move from center. I mean this physically and I believe they soon learn spiritually, too. I think movement therapy is certainly more apt. It’s all well and good to know the precision of movements, but wasn’t the whole reason he invented Contrology to allow people a greater economy of movement in varied activities?

    I’m glad you brought this up, Stephanie, it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

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