I have been a Pilates instructor for over 15 years, and it’s only in the past 5 years that I’ve really come to appreciate and love what is known as the Classical Pilates Method.
If you have done classical Pilates in the past, or you try these workouts and think “Uh…what was that???”, I completely understand.
I simply urge you to stick with me so that you, too, can one day learn to love these unique, challenging and flowing exercises!
I won’t go into the full history of the Pilates method here, but I highly recommend you read about it to get an idea of where all of this amazingness comes from.
Today we are going to simply address the differences between what is commonly known as Classical Pilates and Contemporary Pilates.
If you have done some of my workouts, you are familiar with contemporary Pilates. There is a huge range and variation of teaching styles, but essentially all the exercises we teach are directly from Joseph Pilates himself. We simply are open to modifying exercises as needed for anatomy and biomechanics, changing the flow and order of the exercises, using various small toys to add a variation and challenge and basically adapting Pilates to work for the clients we are teaching. We vary the speed, the number of reps, the breathing and the flow in order to reach our goals for that session, while always following the principles of the Pilates method.
Classical Pilates adheres to teaching Joseph Pilates’ original exercises in the original order that he taught. He developed 34 unique exercises (as laid out in his book “Return to Life”) that he taught in that exact order. This constituted his mat Pilates workout.
He used very few repetitions per exercise and worked at a very fast pace. Modifications weren’t generally used, as it was thought that the exercises, when done correctly, would eventually correct any imbalances in the body. There wouldn’t be a need for “modifications”.
It is a very challenging and unique way of exercising.
Which is probably why I didn’t like it for years!
I was a physical therapist by training before becoming a Pilates instructor. I came from a world of working with injured clients and always needing to modify. The first exercise in Joseph Pilates mat work is the hundred, and my clients could barely even lift their heads off the mat, much less do a full hundred!
I fell in love with the method itself and realized quickly how invaluable it was for treating my clients, but I couldn’t wrap my head around these very advanced poses and a need to always perform them in the same order.
After 10 years of intense Pilates practice for myself, I finally felt ready to try some classical Pilates work. I think I did it more just to learn versus because I thought I might like it.
I actually LOVED it!
I loved it because it was a challenge when I thought I knew everything about Pilates. I felt energized and detoxed in a completely different way, and felt closer to Joseph Pilates, who had done so much to guide and inspire my career and life.
That being said, I still don’t feel like classical Pilates is for everyone.
If you are just starting out or have some aches and pains, you may want to save classical Pilates work for when you are a little more conditioned to what Pilates is about. If you are a beginner, I highly recommend starting with this workout or this one. If you have injuries, check out this workout for low back pain or this one for knee pain.
I speak from experience when I say you will appreciate these classical workouts more when you have a little Pilates work under your belt and feel ready for a new challenge!
Click the pics below to watch the workout videos!
I recommend doing Part 1 first, followed by Part 2. When you do this, you will be doing the first 20 of Joseph Pilates mat exercises.
You will also get one heck of a good workout!
Remember to always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.