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Achieving your fitness goals: Classical versus modern Pilates

Pilates is one of the most popular ways for people to achieve their fitness goals. However, it is an approach that has several different variations, which can make it confusing for beginners when choosing a Pilates class. This article is an overview of the different types of Pilates to help you choose the best approach.

The essential difference between classical and modern Pilates is that classical instructors seek to teach the method exactly as its originator intended, whereas modern instructors take into account developments in medical science to improve upon the original exercises. Even more complexity is added by the fact that what counts as a classical approach is disputed.

Joseph Pilates developed his exercise method in the late 19th century. For decades after he began teaching people how to use the Pilates method, the only ways for people to learn the approach that he advocated were to learn from either Pilates himself or from one of his students. As a result of this word of mouth dissemination, there is some variation in what is considered to be a classical approach to the Pilates method.

Classical Pilates is also known as the Romana method after Joseph Pilates’ first pupil. There was a clear change in the method that he taught and the methods taught by other pupils of Pilates and those that were subsequently taught by these pupils. The disputes arise in what is considered a pure/Romana classical method and what is considered a subset classical method. There have been several attempts down the years to codify the pure classical Pilates method and prevent people who dissent from it from describing their teachings as Pilates. Thus far, these attempts have been unsuccessful.

Romana or classical Pilates instructors tend to advocate a flattened spine in all supine exercises. They also teach that buttocks should be squeezed at all times and that the exercises should be conducted with a ballet style flow of movement. Classical subset instructors tend to modify all of these aspects in order to allow for a more natural style of exercise. They can point to statements from Joseph Pilates himself to the effect that dancers “ruined” his method as evidence that they are adhering to his real intentions.

Modern or contemporary Pilates instructors worry less about strict adherence to the original method and instead construct their own interpretations of Pilates that incorporate developments in medical science. As justification for these modifications, contemporary instructors point to the fact that Joseph Pilates was an innovator who would have incorporated new knowledge as it became available.

The routines taught by contemporary instructors tend to include many of the original exercises that Joseph Pilates advocated, but also add in extra exercises derived from physical therapy and other sources. Modern Pilates also allows for the use of many more machines than Pilates or his early pupils envisaged.

For students who are interested in a Pilates style work out, the approach that they take is entirely up to them and their fitness goals. Anyone who is recovering from an injury might find a more modern approach more beneficial. However, if you are able to physically undertake the original exercises, then a more pure Pilates approach still offers an excellent way to build strength and flexibility. For Pilates classes near you.