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Classical Pilates vs. Contemporary Pilates

The Classical vs Contemporary Pilates debate has been raging for years! How can we come to a resolution?

I have been practicing Pilates for over 20 years and have been teaching for almost 15 years. Until 4 years ago I was a self-proclaimed “Pilates Snob”. I only practiced and taught the classical work every single day. The same exercises and order every single day. I truly love much of the classical work in my own body. I also love the discipline of the classical order.

However, as a teacher and business owner I knew my clients were less inspired by its repetitiveness. I had a mediocre business at best. It paid the bills but that was just about it. The Pilates I taught back then just did not keep people interested or motivated long. I tried everything I could think of to make class feel new and fresh without straying from the classical order, but people still would come then go. I told myself for years, “they just do not get it”. It was actually me that did not get it. I was beating my head against a brick wall. After 10 plus years of trying to convince people that “Classical” Pilates was going to change their lives I was burnt out. I wanted to close the studio and practice my beloved, misunderstood Pilates in the spare bedroom in my house.

The Change

Then one day I stumbled upon an IG post by Korin Nolan. Fate must have been at work as she is now my business partner. Anyway, she was doing a move she called the “Flying Plank”. It was a push-up/lunge hybrid. At first glance it looked nothing like Pilates until I tried it. Once I tried her crazy looking move, I realized it was just like Pilates. It had all of the fundamentals mashed together. The “Flying Lunge” was “The Push Up” from the Mat work and “Eve’s Lunge” from the Reformer work. As scrolled through her IG page I realized what she was doing was brilliant and could be the solution to my business failure.

For the first time I began thinking outside of the Pilates box and all of a sudden, I saw so many new possibilities. I was also finally able to see my client’s frustration with my old teaching style. I was so stuck on doing it “Joe’s” way I was not willing to bend or try anything new. Because of this mindset I was not providing a fitness program that was most beneficial to the clients walking through my door.

There is NOTHING wrong with the “classical” work. To this day I still practice it regularly however, my business thrives because I do not limit myself or my clients to it. My classes today look very different than they did 4 years ago. However, if you take a second look you will see that almost every sequence or flow I put together has a very strong classical root. Yes, I do consider my work “Pilates”.

My Approach

Many may disagree with me and that is fine. I do not care. I am confident in my work, I am proud of the content I teach and my business is thriving. Joseph Pilates was a very creative, brilliant man. I truly believed if he were still alive he would continue to evolve and create new movements to adapt to today’s clientele. Do you really think he would keep recycling the same exercises over and over, 80 years later? Today’s clients are very different from his clientele. Our strengths and weaknesses are very different. Adapting the classical work to better suit your client’s needs should not be “classical vs contemporary”. It should be common sense!

For me it is all about balance. I feel like I have created a teaching style that is the perfect blend of “classical” and “contemporary” for my studio and clientele. Every teacher or business owner should find their own balance. If you are struggling like I was 4 years ago, let your client’s needs help guide you.

And for heaven’s sake call it PILATES if you want.

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