About Classical Pilates
What does it mean when you hear the term Classical Pilates vs. Contemporary Pilates? To start, those who follow what we call ‘Classical Pilates’ try their best to teach the Pilates Method as close to the style and routine as Joseph Pilates taught. While it is true that Joseph Pilates taught many years ago and has since passed, we have black and white photos, film clips, and his students that we can reference as a way to obtain our information. His most famous disciple, the woman who he chose to carry on his legacy, Romana Kryzanowska, stayed relatively true to his teaching methods and passed on his teachings to her own students. In 1998 she created the first Teacher Manual so that future generations would have actual documentation of the work. That being said, there are also some exercises that Romana adapted or even created that we often consider Classical, but with the caveat that it was from Romana and not Joe. Most of the Teacher Trainers that are currently teaching the Classical Method of pilates have been students of Romana, or students of one of her students (first generation or second generation).
In regards to apparatus, there are significant dimensions that are used in the manufacturing of equipment that make it Classical or Contemporary. Again, Classical apparatus stays as true as we know it to be to the apparatus that Joseph Pilates used. On the other hand, Contemporary apparatus tends to be slightly bigger, albeit definitely different, in the dimensions, and, the apparatus often allows for a lot more changes… for example, more springs, different angles of bars, eye hooks, more gears for different heights of people, etc. A Classical reformer is pretty set on 4 springs all of the same tension, up or down for foot bar only , 3 or 4 gears and not many changing parts (ropes, risers, etc). Likewise, a Classical Wunda Chair has a set angle from seat to pedal, and a Classical Spine Corrector has a much more shallow dip than a Contemporary one.
Which is better? Well, as a Classical Instructor, I certainly believe in the Classical method. I believe that the routine of the method allows us to deepen our practice with every session. We know what to expect, we learn how to make the exercise more, we engage the powerhouse in every exercise and there is a reason for the order … every exercise builds upon the previous one. There is a progression from one exercise to the next, and the apparatus is a tool to either correct alignment, develop strength, open hips or chest, work into extension, along with many other things. When doing Contemporary work that is typically different every time, uses lots of props, and is often changing, it is hard to find that depth as you are always trying to figure out what is next, where do I go from here, and what is the goal of each individual session, as opposed to what is the goal of my practice. That being said, I think that each individual needs to experience Pilates in their own way and decide what feels best for the body, mind and soul. As I like to say, Pilates is a lifestyle, not just a moment in time that you take a class.