Defining Classical vs. Contemporary Pilates

With so many methods of Pilates, how do you explain to your clients the difference between classical and contemporary Pilates?

Here are some definitions…

Classical Pilates: The exact exercises and ideas that Joe Pilates and his wife Clara taught to Romana Kryzanowska of Romana’s Pilates / True Pilates New York (TPNY). This system is built around a set order on specific equipment and allows for little to no variation. Of course, with hundreds of exercises and modifications at your disposal, and a proven track record like no other, do you need to? Classical schools include Romana’s Pilates, Power Pilates, and Peak Pilates.

Contemporary Pilates: In 2000, a court decided that the term Pilates could not be trademarked. As a result, many schools have taken extensive liberties with the system – adding exercises, changing principles, including new kinesiology research, etc, in programming sessions and developing a new curriculum. This system allows for greater creativity, but, in my opinion, also allows for too much freedom and as a result many Pilates classes resemble yoga far more closely than Pilates. Contemporary schools include STOTT PILATES, Balanced Body, and Polestar Pilates.

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6 responses to “Defining Classical vs. Contemporary Pilates

  1. What arguments do the founders/sellers of the non-classical methods use to justify the changes they have made, or exercises they have added/taken away?

  2. They say that the updated methods are safer as they encorporate new research on kinesiology and exercise science.

    I personally like a lot of the new exercises since they can prepare clients for some of the more challenging exercises. Also, the original work is designed to be done only in privates, so the reformer exercises prepare a client for work on the mat, and vice versa. With the popularity of group mat classes rising constantly, it’s important to have a well-rounded mat chart that will help a client progress through all the levels of difficulty while mobilizing the spine in all directions (flexion, extention, rotation and lateral flexion) while also moving and strengthening the periphery (arms and legs).

  3. “With so many methods of Pilates, how do you explain to your clients the difference between classical and contemporary Pilates?”

    I don’t. I simply teach pilates; always have, always will.

  4. With 500 exercises in the repertoire, there is ample room for ‘variation’. I haven’t found anything that needed ‘updating’ in my learning and teaching of the Classical method. The room for growth and knowledge is all within the teacher’s grasp, and in observing and listening to the client. The client is the ultimate teacher.

  5. Clients have rarely asked me what the difference is between classical and contemporary Pilates. The few times that has happened, it’s because they went to another studio and then come back telling me that “it was so different. Why?” Those are about the only times I’ve gotten into that conversation with a client. I just say something simple like, “We do what’s called ‘classical’ Pilates; it’s more like what Joe Pilates did than a contemporary approach.” No need to get into a long discussion about it. I’m not out to convert anyone.

  6. I get asked a lot, because my studio offers both Classical and Contemporary sessions. People want to know why they have very different experiences.

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