The evolution, in the case of Pilates, began in 1934 with the book Your Health, continued in 1945 with Joe’s second book Returning to Life Through Contrology, and has continued to this day with new exercises, new equipment, and new improvements to his original physical programming, presented in the most recent book The Evolution of Pilates.
Developments leading up to the twenty-first century
Pilates developed his fitness techniques as a result of what he himself experienced while growing up in Germany towards the end of the 19th century. At that time, many practitioners used specially invented devices and claimed that what they provided could cure disease. As you have seen in Pilates’ own writing, he sided very strongly with this basic concept, although he also strongly disagreed with the details given by others.
The first generation of Pilates students in New York, many of whom were dancers and choreographers, opened their own studios. They continue to teach the Pilates method with their personal seal; Most of them became legends in the 20th century, such as Romana Kryzanowska, Joe Grimes, Eve Gentry, and Ron Fletcher. Students of newer Pilates methodologies, such as Moira Stott (now Stott-Merrithew) in Canada, Joan Breibart and Elizabeth Larkam in the United States, have started an irreversible evolutionary trend in the twenty-first century world of Pilates education.
The original Pilates exercise regimens focused on strengthening the core muscles while simultaneously stretching the spine and limbs. In the 21st century, STOTT PILATES aims to offer a more advanced form of exercise, while incorporating modern body awareness and recent discoveries in exercise science and spinal rehabilitation. Stott’s training has evolved to include more shoulder girdle and pelvic stabilization exercises, as well as focusing on more anatomical concepts of a neutral spine and pelvis. Moira taught herself and trained with Romana Kryzanowska in the New York studio founded by Joseph Pilates.
Joan Breibart co-founded the Pilates Method Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1991, along with Michelle Larson and Eve Gentry. Although it was initially conceived as an organization providing training for instructors in Pilates methods, it has since become quite innovative in expanding Pilates methods with its own methods. Chapters VI and VII of this third part focus on standing Pilates and circuit Pilates, two of Joanne’s primary developmental focuses. After moving her organization to New York City, and renaming it the PhysicalMind Institute, her organization continues to train thousands of existing Pilates instructors. Along with many others, she continues to enhance the work of Pilates with a modern awareness of biomechanical issues during vertical and horizontal exercises.
Elizabeth Larkham is the recognized innovator and developer of Pilates-based protocols for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic spine and orthopedic pain. She began her study of Pilates techniques in 1985 while teaching dance at Stanford University and was another student of first-generation Pilates teachers Ron Fletcher, Eve Gentry, and Romana Kryzanowska. Elizabeth co-founded Polestar Pilates Education, a master educator at Balanced Body University that offers courses across North America, Europe and Asia. Since 1992, Elizabeth has created dozens of instructional DVDs for the fitness, therapeutic, education, and home markets.
Madeline Black is another Masters Instructor in the Body Balanced University programs. Having worked with some of the greats in the world of Pilates and dance—Romana Kryzanowska, Eve Gentry, Marika Molnar, and Erin Dowd—she herself has become one of the 21st century leaders in expanding Joseph Pilates’ legacy through her innovative movement studies. She specializes in integrating concepts and techniques, and developing new methodologies and approaches, from Pilates, Gyrotonics, Yoga and other movement systems. The authors of this particular book are very pleased to have obtained our Pilates certification from Madeline Black in 1993 when she was teaching at the Joanne Prepart Physical Mind Institute at her San Francisco Studio M location (now in Sonoma County).
Elizabeth Larkham and Madeline Black are just two of the notable list of 21st century stars in the evolutionary development of Pilates-based fitness education. Both women serve as mentors for the Passing the Torch program created by Balanced Body and train advanced Pilates instructors and instructors.
As the program director for Balanced Body Pilates in Sacramento, California, Elizabeth has developed instructional videos for her equipment, big and small. Although the other notables mentioned above also work with companies that produce noteworthy Pilates equipment, props, and training materials, Balanced Body deserves a special mention here, and not just because we ourselves have used and learned to use Balanced Body equipment.
On October 19, 2000, Balanced Body and its founder/owner Ken Endelman won a federal trademark lawsuit in the United States. Ken and his company were sued by Sean Gallagher for trademark infringement, because Gallagher bought the trademark in 1992 and Ken among others made and sold Pilates-inspired equipment. In short, the outcome of that lawsuit was that Pilates, like other generic fitness names like karate or yoga, no longer qualifies for trademark infringement protection. Anyone from that point forward can use the Pilates name to create and provide exercise services or equipment.
Evolutionary props and hardware developments
Romana Kryzanowska was correcting interviewers when they asked her about Pilates “machines”. She would say that the “machine” does its thing for you, whereas with the Pilates “machine” you yourself are directed to do the work and train your body. As you know, the original 34 Pilates exercises didn’t use any device or prop. “If you can do the rug perfectly, you don’t need the device. But people love games,” Romana noted. As coaches, we have to agree, but they are more than just entertainment; They are facilitators. Students must learn the exercises correctly, with or without a device or brace, in order to enable their bodies to mirror the intent of each exercise. As Pilates says, people should “get the method in their bodies.”
Each piece of equipment or prop contains a unique repertoire of exercises that have evolved from the Pilates principles seen earlier in this book. The most common piece of equipment in traditional Pilates studios is the reformer, although imposing pieces like Cadillacs, specialty chairs, and a variety of drums are also seen. Additionally, for fun and body-targeted purposes, you can now see an explosion of new and increasingly used props, such as the magic circle, elastic tubes and bands, foam rollers, small and large exercise balls, weights, and other innovative devices introduced in the following chapters.
Classical Pilates instructors often teach the exercises in an unaltered order, staying close to the original Pilates action. In general, they also use equipment that was built to its original specifications. Most classically trained teachers will have studied the complete system of exercises and can generally trace their training back to Joseph Pilates through one of his protégés. Contemporary/Modern Pilates divides the method into different parts and the order of the exercises varies from lesson to lesson with many changes made to the original exercises.