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Classical Pilates Versus Contemporary Pilates

Recently I stumbled upon an Instagram post by a fellow classical Pilates instructor. In her post she was wearing a shirt that read “Make Pilates Classical Again”. I had a laugh then got to thinking about all the different variations of Pilates you can find today. How many people really know the differences, or even know that there is a difference? As a classical Pilates instructor, I frequently get new clients who have been practicing Pilates for years but find my sessions to be completely different from what they’re used to. Below I’ll talk a bit about both methods and how they compare and contrast.

Classical Pilates

Classical Pilates follows the philosophy and movement patterns designed by Joseph Pilates over 90 years ago. It takes a holistic approach to exercise while creating an individualized workout for your body and your needs. Classical Pilates starts with a foundation of exercises that can be modified as needed. It uses the equipment that Joseph himself created and is taught by “Pilates Elders,” students who trained directly under Joseph Pilates or his proteges.

Contemporary Pilates

Contemporary Pilates is everything that came after classical Pilates. Some of the styles include STOTT, BASI, and mat Pilates. Most of these methods are based on classical Pilates but have been modernized. Some have been heavily influenced by physical therapy. Others have been adjusted for convenience and the ability to teach on a larger scale. They will have made changes to the exercises, the order, and/or the equipment in order to do so.

There is no one style of Pilates that is better than all the others. It’s a matter of opinion. My personal feelings are that Pilates is great in whatever form so long as it maintains the integrity of the original method and is taught safely by well trained instructors. I teach and train in the classical Pilates method because it’s the perfect balance of exercise and therapy for my body. I will always encourage people to try Pilates, classical or contemporary. So long as your instructor knows what they’re teaching and has your wellbeing in mind, go ahead and move your body however you want!

– Rachael Turner, LMT, Pilates instructor & Founder of Inertia6