Joseph Pilates was quoted as saying he was fifty years ahead of his time. I can only imagine what he might have thought knowing that even as he was developing his system of mind/body fitness, the American public wouldn’t truly appreciate his contribution to wellness, until decades later. Over eighty years have gone by and Americans as well as the global Pilates community are indeed celebrating his methodology, as well as rediscovering the natural design and intentions of the human body.
However, he might not have imagined a future in which so many diluted versions of his method with hundreds of certification programs that promise fast results for students and faster certificates for teachers were now offered worldwide. Though Mr. Pilates’ theories about reclaiming our youthful spine have been fully embraced, he might question those programs that bare his name and yet take liberties with his technique.
Those who were fortunate to study with Romana, as I did, would often hear her say that bad Pilates was better than no Pilates and even if people were learning unrecognizable variations of the Pilates theme, it was better than nothing. The first time I heard Romana utter those words, I was speechless. How could she be okay with one of the most brilliant systems of body conditioning ever developed be continually changed by people who claimed to teach the work of Joseph Pilates, but were not? Her words seemed out of sync with the stringent guidelines that she encouraged us to follow as we practiced and taught.
It’s clear that today’s client isn’t so attached to tradition, and welcomes a variety of techniques so long as the magic word Pilates is promised. As a traditionalist and practitioner of the original work, I understand that those of us who continue to teach what Joseph Pilates taught, are often at odds with clients who have the mind-set that supports whatever “Pilates” regimen will give them a great butt or an awesome upper body or a Pilates teaching certificate. My students understand that practicing Pilates is more than just developing a good looking bottom and strong upper body – they know the true value is how practicing Pilates consistently makes their daily activities easier, lighter and more effortless.
Any of the classical arts, when compared to the modern representations, can evoke heated conversations as to which style has more value. Still, if the many non-classical approaches that the public is more familiar with, can produce similar results, maybe that’s better as Romana said, than no Pilates at all. But Mr. Pilates may just have the last word, as I can imagine him saying to himself, “Fads fade, classics stay and my work will remain ever more.”