Classical Pilates vs. Contemporary Pilates
If you've been around any Pilates studio long enough, you will inevitably hear both instructors and students alike talking about "Classical Pilates" and "Contemporary, or Modern Pilates."
"Wait!" you ask... "there's more than one kind of Pilates?" The short answer is YES!
Classical Pilates, originally called Contrology, was created by Joseph Pilates and introduced to the American market in the late 1920s. He created and named over 100 different exercises that were taught in a specific order in which he believed created the greatest benefit and circulatory flow through the body. The act of repetition created strong and proficient students, while slowly adding in challenging exercises as students earned them, or when he deemed them ready.
Pilates believed that his exercises were the only form of physical fitness anyone ever needed, as they keep the spine flexible, correct muscle imbalances, teach corrective posture, and increase breathing proficiency.
There was an elegant, dance-like flow to the exercise routine in the order in which they were taught. They were strung together with purpose, to warm up the internal organs, work through all planes of the body, and work the spine through flexion, extension, and rotation.
Today, the basics of the exercises and the order in which they are taught mostly remain the same in classical Pilates. The continuous engagement of the muscles and activation of the core while moving efficiently from one exercise to the next will undoubtedly create strength in the body, mind, and spirit.
Just as anything changes with time, Pilates is no exception. As the original Pilates Elders that trained directly with Joseph Pilates began to advance, grow, open studios of their own, and train next generation teachers, their own styles and experience became significant influences on the way the repertoire was taught.
Today, there are multiple National certifying bodies along with several distinct equipment manufacturers.
What can you expect from a Classical Pilates Class?
- The basic exercises are the same each class, which builds confidence and proficiency with repetition.
- Transitions between exercises are taught to be as efficient as possible, and part of the work-out.
- As students advance, only one or two new exercises are introduced at a time.
- You will be encouraged to "work the system", which includes the original Mat work, Reformer, Tower, Cadillac, and Chair exercises. The shapes in space and movement patterns will be very similar across all apparatus, however will challenge and work the body in different ways, to build optimal strength and body control.
What can you expect from a Contemporary Pilates Class?
- There is no defined "order" in which the exercises are taught in each class.
- Students can expect a large variety of exercises, including the use of props, and extra creativity from the instructors.
- More time may be spent between each exercise for teaching moments, or a short rest.
- Focus may be on a larger number of repetitions, working deeper into large or small muscle groups.
No one practice is better than the other. They are each different with their own strengths. We recommend giving both a try to see which style fits best with your body, your learning style, and where you ultimately feel the work in your body. All movement is movement, and we are here to help you along your mind-body journey, no matter what that looks like for you!
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