Thursday, December 15, 2005

What the heck is Pilates anyway?

The owner of one of the studios where I teach directed me recently to the Wikipedia entry on Pilates; she took umbrage at the article (which she did not fully compose but contributed to) having being branded non-neutral and by the criticisms of the method appended to it. As an officer (currently freelance, formerly full-time) of the Editorial Police, I'd say both sides are wrong. The article, as it stands, is a hodgepodge: it's incomplete as to description and history; it includes some editorializing that lacks context so doesn't really make sense; and many of the criticisms are similarly lacking in context and come across as trivial. I'm not currently prepared to put in the time to rewrite it, though I'll keep it in mind should I find myself housebound at some point.

I certified in Pilates because it was an umbrella label under which I could do what I do. I'm not much for labels ("dancer" is one of the few I embrace) and have a rep (deserved) as the anti-Pilates Pilates teacher--told a student once that she was not allowed to do Pilates anymore. I dislike the phenomenon aspect; the term "powerhouse" makes me gag. It's easy to do the exercises wrong, and many of the cues that are commonly used in teaching will lead some people to do them wrong. Joe's bombast about his method as cure-all was in part a product of his era, as was his idea of desirable posture. I, for one, don't want to look like this guy (though I grant it's impressive for his age).

Where I can find common ground with my fellow Pilateans is in certain overriding principles: alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flowing movement. Pilates, of course, doesn't own those; they apply just as easily to much of dance, yoga, tai chi, and a whole lot of other mind-body modalities. I use all of them, and pretty much everything else I've ever learned. I do a lot of work of a rehabilitative nature, though I do not have a medical degree or license and therefore would not bill what I do as officially "rehab." Obviously, I don't take Pilates as the One True Exercise. But, whatever you want to call it, I get to do some great, rewarding, keep doing it even if I win the lottery kind of work.

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