In a conversation with a couple of clients over brunch, I realized how little people know about what Pilates is — even those who actually practice it.
As I took the time to ponder this anomaly, I started wonder what is Pilates anyway?
There’s the textbook answer: Joe Pilates was an actual man. A boxer, gymnast, movement enthusiast. He was an inventor, an innovator. A man’s man. A beer-drinking, cigar-smoking German. My clients all have that basic knowledge, and maybe some of the New York lineage. “Yes, Romana, she’s the Pilates guru,” but that’s really it. As I sat explaining the roots of Pilates, its foundation, family tree, and my line, I realized that it still doesn’t really explain what it actually is. SO, if Pilates isn’t the people that created it or teach it, what the fuck is Pilates anyway?
It might be easiest to start with what Pilates isn’t. It’s not yoga, or ballet-based. It’s not weight training, or just mat work. Pilates falls somewhere between mind/body modalities and cross fit. It’s not extreme or passive. It stretches, strengthens, energizes, relaxes, and heals all at the same time. There’s equipment involved, and while it’s most beneficial if you use it, you don’t have to if you want to do some Pilates.
No wonder Pilates is confusing to most people — even to it’s instructors. We come from all different backgrounds — from dancers to dog trainers — and hold certifications from different schools in over 20 states and 24 international countries. It was Joe’s dream to have a Pilates studio on every corner, in every city, in every country. The thing with expansion is that the more hands you have on something the more it morphs and changes, and some say, mutates. Joe used to give each person their own personal workout and then let them loose in the studio nudging and elbowing them into correct form. So whatever Pilates was for the business man that came to the studio, it may not be the same for the ballerina next to him. The definition of Pilates wasn’t the same for him as it was for her.
Here’s where the family tree grows branches and spreads it’s seeds across the world, making Joe’s dream come true. Many hands, many amalgamations. But isn’t that what their experience warranted? The industry gets bogged down with arguments and “discussions” on who’s actually teaching the true work of Joe, but really who the heck knows what Joe would do if he were alive today? He would probably be sitting back, sipping a cold one, and laughing at all the money in the bank.