One of the greatest qualities about Pilates has to be the anti-trendiness of its longevity. Designed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900's, this system has been tested thoroughly by, now, millions and still rises to the top every time. Save for a few bad personal experiences with green teachers or even all out bad teachers, it's hard to argue with the physical and mental benefits of the Pilates method.
Once the resurgence from its original popularity in the 40's began to take hold in the late 90's, the door was open for the throngs who would – as expected – come to try and reinvent this wheel. Many more shingles were hung on doors than should have been if lack of experience is the criteria. In early 2000, gyms were catching the scent of money being made from the "new" technique and this sent a dangerous ripple into the marketplace whereby weekend courses were offered to get fitness professionals "up to speed" on Pilates. I should add here that Joseph Pilates required a minimum of a three-year apprenticeship by his side before considering handing out what we now call a certification.
Over the past 10 years, Pilates has grown exponentially, which I believe would have made its founder proud, however there is some balking to be done. Now that so many people are teaching Pilates, I vacillate between believing it's okay for all these teachers to be out there spreading the word and believing it is a disservice to the public to make generic what was once a technique meant for the individual body. As my teacher, and Joseph Pilates' personal protégée, would say, "even bad Pilates is good for you." Let me clarify that on her behalf -- what she meant was that the movements of Pilates are so inherently good for your body (because they are based on sound physiology) that by simply practicing them you are achieving benefit even if you are not being taught to wring the maximum advantage from the work.
When I witness bad Pilates in product instruction and DVDs, I cringe. Not to take anything away from the genius of the Pilates system, but this method, like most things in life, is really only as good as its teacher. If your teacher understands the principles, physiology and, ultimately, the philosophy behind the work, then you stand a fairly good chance at experiencing what Joseph Pilates was hoping for. And how do I know what this man who died before I was born would want us to experience? I've studied him through my teachers and clients who knew him, read his books, such as A Pilates' Primer: The Milennium Edition (yes, he wrote all this stuff down), watched footage of him teaching and demonstrating, and pored through the hundreds of photographs he took to document his method and its successes.
Joseph Pilates being one of the very first to document before and after comparisons, it seems obvious enough to me that this man's goal was to change our functional relationship with our bodies. Paramount in that task was the call to take personal responsibility for our own health and wellbeing. And so, perhaps, that is what we're doing when we buy the latest and greatest Pilates product to come down the line; after all, Joseph Pilates was a fervent inventor who created at least 15 pieces that we know of plus, I have to imagine, a few that got left on the workshop floor.
Maybe the newest Pilates bands and rings and bars are in fact just what you were looking for to help cultivate your relationship with your body, and, if that is the case, then aren't you lucky how readily available they've become? However, it is my experience that trends are meant for marketing and not for transformation. To truly understand a system as rich as Pilates, and therefore to get the most from it, you must invest time in its teachings. The resources are there, though they may not be as easily accessible as the trends. It is your choice to seek out the truly authentic teachings.
There is no right or wrong way to go so long as you recognize that the most important trend for any workout you pursue is you -- your brilliant brain and its ability to intuit what is best for your individual body. I'll say it again, Pilates is only as good as its teacher, and ultimately that teacher should be you.
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