Pilates Teachers' Manual

Evolution of Teaching Pilates

October 14, 2021 Olivia Bioni Season 5 Episode 9
Pilates Teachers' Manual
Evolution of Teaching Pilates
Show Notes Transcript

Today we discuss how Pilates teachers, their goals, teaching methodologies, and teaching philosophies have evolved over time from the inception of Pilates to the current day. I also look at how I fit in the the eras of Pilates teaching and share some announcements. 

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[00:00:00] Welcome to Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. I'm Olivia, and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and the Pilates community on Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.

[00:00:56] Hello, hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. [00:01:00] Today we're going to be discussing how Pilates teaching philosophy has evolved, specifically looking at how Pilates teachers, their goals, teaching methodologies, and teaching philosophies have evolved over time. 

[00:01:15] But first I've got a few announcements for you. More amazing people have contributed to my podcast project over on Buy Me A Coffee, so I wanted to take a moment to say a huge thank you to an anonymous contributor, Valipo and Julie. Thank you so much for your belief in the project and for really being a big part of it continuing to happen. Thank you so much.

[00:01:43] If you follow my personal Instagram at @OliviaBioniwellness, you may have seen that I said goodbye to my group and private classes at Club Pilates in Chicago. Leaving a studio is always a bittersweet experience [00:02:00] because you really do make some deep connections with other teachers, with clients, with the staff. And I was definitely sad to say goodbye to those studios. 

[00:02:12] But on the flip side of that, I have this really wonderful opportunity to work with Breathe Education, which is a Pilates school based in Australia. You may know of them because I've definitely talked about them on the podcast and how awesome I think they are. I'm currently going through their teacher training program so that I can see how they work from the inside out. I'm so excited and absolutely thrilled to enjoy learning and teaching Pilates, which is pretty much my MO anyway. 

[00:02:47] Another thing I'm doing to prepare to be a trainer with Breathe Education is take an Australian course called a Cert IV in Training and Assessment, which is kind of a neat [00:03:00] thing that I wish the United States did, where it's a course that trains you to train others in some vocation. And I think it's kind of cool to think of Pilates teacher training as vocational education, because that really is what it is. And I'm excited to learn more about training others and also how to assess knowledge acquisition. It feels very much like what I did in college as an Ed Studies major. And, um, I'm excited for that course as well.

[00:03:33] I've definitely joked on here about loving, continuing education and always wanting to learn. And that is what my next six months are really looking like. These courses will take me through March and possibly into April. We'll see. And it's now like a part-time job. So I'm really enthused to be undergoing this transformation for myself, but also preparing myself for the next step in my career.

[00:03:59] So that's, what's new [00:04:00] with me, but let's talk about the evolution of Pilates philosophy. I love this breakdown that Breathe Education provided in the first week of their course, because it really provided this big picture overview of how Pilates has changed over time and what schools of thought, but also what was really influencing how Pilates was being taught, you know, across the decades.

[00:04:29] This is definitely Breathe's take on how Pilates has evolved. So it's not a universal thing, but I really do appreciate the way it's broken into eras kind of defined by who's teaching and what they're teaching and why they're teaching it. Um, so it really resonated with me. I want to share it with you.

[00:04:50] So let's take a look at how Pilates has evolved from OG Joe Pilates teaching in his gym in New York to me [00:05:00] taking an online Pilates teacher training course right now. You cannot say exactly when Pilates started in Joseph Pilates head. Like we don't know if we were, if he was thinking about this when he was 10 or 20 or while he was a boxer or a circus performer or whatever mythical life he was living.

[00:05:22] Um, but we do know that he published his book Return to Life Through Contrology in 1945. So if we want to say that that is the starting point, even though he was very likely teaching Pilates beforehand, we can say that, you know, this is where we first see the exercises in written form. But from that point we can divide the history of Pilates into four different eras: the Contrology era, the Classical era, the Contemporary era, and the current era, which Breathe Education is calling Contrology 2.0. 

[00:05:59] Now, [00:06:00] even though these are sort of different time periods, the different schools of thought of Pilates are coexisting. There are classical teachers right now. There are contemporary teachers, right. As Pilates continues to evolve. I'm sure that, you know, the schools aren't being replaced entirely, but new sort of thought is kind of popping up around it. 

[00:06:23] The first era is characterized as the Contrology era. And this is when Joe was teaching his original method pretty much himself. We know from Caged Lion by John Howard steel, that there were other teachers assisting in the gym. But Joe was the main teacher. So this era is going to run from the publication of Joe's book, maybe a little bit before that, 1945 to 1967, which is when Joseph Pilates passed. 

[00:06:56] Joe's overarching theories [00:07:00] about his movement system are described in the introduction to his book Return to Life. The main idea is that exercise is going to cure all of your ailments. We're going to do whole body movements. We're not isolating things. We're going to move everything all the time. And you can really see this in the archival footage of Joe, but this belief that the body is not fragile, the body is strong and resilient because some of the hands-on cues that Joe is giving are very forceful. And you wouldn't do that if you thought the body was going to break. 

[00:07:36] The movement itself in Pilates, it's really interesting to see the archival footage or at least it was for me, because the Pilates that I know is so smooth and graceful and controlled, whereas Joe's Pilates is not like that. It is bouncy. It is jerky. It is forced. You're [00:08:00] moving in full range and there's not really a distinction between a beginner exercise and an intermediate exercise and an advanced exercise. If you're a beginner, you're doing all of the exercises to the best of your ability. 

[00:08:15] The breath is described in Return to Life and the primary focus is to focus and calm the mind. He also has this thought about purifying the blood, which is not a thing. Your kidneys purify your blood, but A for effort there, Joe. The way that Joe's cuing the exercises is very hands-on, very demonstration focused, and not a lot of words. 

[00:08:40] After Joe's death, the people who began teaching Pilates are the students of Joseph Pilates. So this is the rise of the classical era with Pilates as taught by the Elders. Elders with the capital E, the people who had learned Pilates from [00:09:00] Joseph Pilates, and that's Kathy grant and Ron Fletcher, and Lolita San Miguel and Eve Gentry and Romana. This time period runs from Joe's death in 1967 through the eighties, the eighties ambiguously, but about the eighties. 

[00:09:16] This is where we see the appearance of the six Pilates principles, which I memorized in teacher training, my first teacher training, as B triple CPR, breathing, control, centering, concentration, precision, and rhythm. Uh, rhythm also called flow. Especially because the majority of the people teaching Pilates are dancers, Romana's a ballerina, Kathy Grant's a dancer, Lolita San Miguel's a dancer, Ron Fletcher's a dancer, primarily dancers. This idea of grace and smooth movements and, you know, controlled movements, flowing movements, all of [00:10:00] that kind of comes to the forefront. 

[00:10:01] This is also where we see kind of generic body parts being cued in clips of Romana teaching or classical teachers. This is where we start referring to the powerhouse or your seat or your core, the sort of body parts. But more generally, like they're saying squeeze your seat, not squeeze your glute max or something like that. 

[00:10:26] This dancer aesthetic starts to be a bit favored. Pilates becomes a lot more feminine, a lot more dancer like. If you've seen Romana teach and the classical Pilates teachers that I've interviewed on the podcast, there is no demonstration. There is only talking. Micki Price Havard, who was on the podcast said, you know, I could have been in an evening gown and taught Pilates because you know, you're not doing the exercises. You're talking through the exercise. 

[00:10:58] There's also a belief that comes [00:11:00] up here and it could also be, you know, as a result of these teachers experience a lot of them coming to Joe because they were injured. But this idea that the body is fragile and if you have bad knees or a bad back, then you don't want to do this exercise. Um, there's also a very clear delineation of what are the beginning exercises, the intermediate exercises, and the advanced exercises that kind of shows up in the Classical Era. 

[00:11:27] Coming up after the break, I'll be diving into the contemporary era and also Contrology 2.0. And kind of how Breathe fits into that picture. Also kind of just reflecting on how I fit into that picture, because it's, it's interesting going through a teacher training when you're already a teacher, because you can kind of see yourself from the outside looking in as well as from being yourself. I had some thoughts. I will share them. That's coming up next.[00:12:00] 

[00:12:03] Hi there. I hope you're enjoying today's chapter so far. There's great stuff coming up after the break, too. Be sure to subscribe wherever you're listening and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. There you can make a one-time donation or become a member for as little as $5 a month.

[00:12:22] Membership comes with some awesome perks, including a shout-out in the next episode, a monthly newsletter, a monthly zoom call with me and more. You can also visit links.OliviaBioni.com/affiliates to check out some sweet deals on products I use and love. Now, back to the show.[00:13:00] 

[00:13:00] After the classical era of Pilates, we move into the Contemporary era. This is characterized by second generation teachers, so teachers who have learned from the Elders who have learned from Joe. So we're twice removed from Joe, and this is happening from the eighties to the late 2010s. We see the advent of Pilates schools. So this is when Stott and BASI and Polestar, Tensegrity, all of these sort of Pilates schools are popping up. 

[00:13:42] And we also start to see here, the rise of group fitness, and not just group mat classes, which I feel like were kind of normal because yoga is also kind of becoming a bit of a thing here as well. But group reformer classes where [00:14:00] we're getting much larger class sizes, which is better for studio owners, they can make more money for sure. But Pilates had previously been done as almost a private setting, even though Joe's gym was kind of an open gym where there were multiple people, each of them was doing their own thing at their own time. It wasn't everyone doing everything together at the same time. 

[00:14:24] We see the influence of the fitness industry and kind of the group fitness industry. We also see the influence of physical therapists and almost this transition in talking about Pilates in very clinical terms and talking about individual muscles and this biomechanical focus, this idea that the body is a machine and we're trying to fix this machine. This is where we start talking about neutral spine and also [00:15:00] transverse abdominis activation to prepare for movement. So this is where inhale to prepare comes in, this idea of stabilizing certain parts of the body to mobilize other parts of the body.

[00:15:13] They're still teaching the classical Pilates exercises, but there's a lot of regressions. There's a lot of pre Pilates exercises that are showing up: marching, bird dogs, things like that. There's a focus on stability and there's a focus on the pelvic floor and really isolating contractions or co contractions of muscles. Really big focus on alignment and almost having teachers that are extremely knowledgeable in anatomy and kinesiology. And yeah, we'll leave it at that. That's contemporary. 

[00:15:54] Then we're looking at Pilates from the late 2010s to now. So [00:16:00] very early in this little phase as well. Calling this Contrology 2.0, which is interesting because kind of in popular or in Pilates discourse, we're kind of circling back to the way Joe taught and really highlighting the things that Joe did that were great. And the things about Pilates that were great and have kind of been shifted and changed and lost over, you know, the 50 years since his death. 

[00:16:30] And things that are going on is we've got Pilates franchises popping up. So again, group fitness is still looking like the way to go in terms of teaching. We're seeing online Pilates platforms popping up, that you're not just teaching people in a studio, but you know, you could be teaching someone you've never met them. You don't know what's going on with them, but you have a membership site and they're taking your classes. 

[00:16:56] We're seeing that biomechanics are beginning to be [00:17:00] a bit more de emphasized. And there's this other model of looking at the body called the bio-psycho-social model, which is the bio is the same as biomechanical. Like we are looking at the body, but there's also this psychological component, what's happening mentally. And this social component that working with someone one-on-one or taking a class in community. That there's also a social aspect to Pilates. It's not just the choreography. And I think you've seen in the way that I talk about Pilates, that this is a model that makes more sense to me than just your body as a machine.

[00:17:42] We're moving back towards this idea of whole body movement. That it's important that you move, regardless of what's going on in your body, movement is the way to go. Kind of returning to more dynamic exercises, moving in the full range of movement. Breathing's coming [00:18:00] back to, you know, calm the mind and focus the mind. And something that I love, I think the most about Breathe and why I've chosen to work with them, is this campaign for movement optimism and the embracing the idea that people can make their own choices about how they want to move. That we're capable. We're strong, we're resilient. We're able to become more capable, more strong and more resilient through practice. 

[00:18:33] And that's something that's really spoken to me because as I was watching the videos and the lecture talking about. This sort of ways that the goals and cuing methods and things have changed over time that my teacher training definitely came in right at the end of the contemporary era in the late 2010s. So a lot [00:19:00] of the, you know, focus on alignment, focus on movement of individual muscles and having to know what all the muscle names are and what they do was definitely apparent, but at the same time, we also did discuss the bio-psycho-social model. So I see that I was kind of on the cusp of this era transition. My teacher trainer, Marylee at Chaturanga Holistic Fitness in Hyde Park in Chicago, was sharing the biomechanical models, but also, you know, sharing that in her journey that she was moving away from that more towards the bio-psycho-social model, which is kind of where we're headed right now.

[00:19:44] So it's interesting to see myself and be like, yeah, I definitely am a product of this style of teaching and it's taking, it's taken me some learning and some unlearning to move away from [00:20:00] this idea that, you know, bodies are broken and I need to fix them. You know, individual Pilates exercises are good for, you know, individual issues, and how can I solve this puzzle, but also solving that puzzle in a way that I'm the person who has the answer instead of the client or the person who's moving with me being able to find the answer for themselves. Like I've moved away, I would say, from that I have all the answers approach to, you know, let's explore and see what we find out together that, that kind of collaborative aspect. 

[00:20:39] This, of course, is not the only way to look at how Pilates has changed. And as I said, you know, there still are classical teachers who are very much interested in the aesthetics and the quality of movement being, you know, flowing and graceful. And there are amazing contemporary teachers who are very clinical in the way [00:21:00] that they, uh, approach Pilates and the way that they teach. And I guess I'm just really excited to keep diving into Contrology almost as like a throwback, but recognizing that Joe was in a lot of ways ahead of his time. Like he didn't hit the nail on the head every time, but he had some really interesting, really great ways of exercising and I'm really excited to be diving into it a bit deeper over these next few months.

[00:21:34] I'm also excited to be able to share what a teacher training program could be like from the inside. Because when I went through my teacher training program, it wasn't really thinking about it as like, well, what is this like as a teacher training program. Like, you're just trying to memorize the exercises in the spring settings and what to say to get people to do what you want them to do. So I am really excited to kind of be doing this as around two. [00:22:00] And I'll definitely be sharing more about that. 

[00:22:02] Big, thank you to all of my supporters on Buy Me a Coffee. I appreciate your contributions. And the fact that you're part of this project with me. Thank you. Thank you. I hope you have a great couple of weeks. I'll be back before you know it. Talk to you again soon.

[00:22:27] Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. Check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual, and be sure to subscribe wherever you listen. For more Pilates goodness, check out my other podcast, Pilates Students' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts. The adventure continues. Until next time.