Following in the Footsteps of the Original Disruptor

By Momentum Fest presenter Trina Altman and  ambassador Nikki Naab-Levy

In past years, a lot of the debate in the Pilates community has been centered around a specific question.

What is the best way to honor the work that we’ve been taught? .

For some, it has meant preserving the work and teaching it in the way they believe Joseph Pilates taught it. For others, this has meant taking what we’ve learned and incorporating it into other modalities or expanding upon it to fit the needs of the individual client.

The truth is there’s no wrong answer.

There’s great value in preserving the work, so the instructors who come after us have an opportunity to learn it and appreciate where the information came from. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that as time goes on, we learn more about how the human body works, which might mean updating our methods.

Additionally, the physical needs of a body in 2018 are very different than what someone might have needed in 1960. More so, our needs change as we move through different phases of life. What you might need in your twenties is very different in your sixties.

The end result, is now there are a lot of Pilates teachers who share this work in a way that looks different from what they were originally taught, regardless of who their teacher was or if their training was considered traditional or contemporary.

Cue the guilt, shame, and isolation, where you question everything that you do and wonder if you need to go back and take a second…third…fourth…or fifth training.

Meanwhile, you also need to pay the bills.

The irony is that most of our clients don’t care. They just want to enjoy movement and feel better in their bodies. So maybe we shouldn’t care so much either.

Some of us have overcome this guilt and started breaking the rules in an effort to make movement accessible for more people, so they’re inspired to take better care of their bodies.

This has prompted us to ask questions, and teach differently. In some cases, it’s been helpful that we collaborate with healthcare providers to best meet the needs of the client.

If you think about it, Joe was a disruptor. We’re just following in his footsteps.

We know that Joseph Pilates studied a variety of methods before he created his own.

It’s documented that he was a wrestler, bodybuilder, and circus performer. He led daily exercise classes for inmates, while interned at the Isle of Man. He studied breathwork, meditation and modern dance.

And when he saw a gap in physical culture, he drew on everything he had learned and tried to fill it through innovation and by creating his own equipment and method.

According to the PMA study guide on page 14, “Through his own experience and teaching, he created a system of corrective exercise that he introduced to the American market in the late 1920’s.”

In summary, Joseph Pilates didn’t want to just teach people how to exercise. He wanted to eliminate human suffering and change the world.

As Pilates teachers, we share his vision and his frustration.

Joseph Pilates wanted his work to be embraced by the medical community and educational institutions. He knew that movement was essential for all people of every age, not just athletes and dancers.

Despite this shared vision, the innovation that many of us have done to bring his work to more people has felt like coming out of the closet.

But thanks to the internet we know we’re not alone. We’ve been able expand the conversation beyond the studio and communicate with Pilates teachers of all backgrounds all over the world.

What we’ve observed is that we’re not as different as we thought we were. Rather, we all share the same goal, which is to help people feel + move better and share a method that we love.
Momentum Fest is a way to take the conversation offline and have it in person. It’s an opportunity to celebrate our differences and come together.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a contemporary or traditional teacher or if you teach east coast or west coast style. What matters is that we come together and experience the joy of movement together as Pilates teachers and enthusiasts.

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