Is there a difference between the Pilates ‘Methods’?

Well, I suppose that depends on how you are teaching movement and whether your teaching conforms to the 6 principles Pilates identified as being the key to his method of physical training.

For anyone who doesn’t know what these are, the principles are as follows:

Centring, Concentration, Control, Breathing, Precision & Flow

These components essentially make the difference between Pilates and something like, Body Conditioning.

An article I read recently attempted to claim differences between the Stott method of Pilates and Classical Pilates, making statements like, ‘The neutral spine is the primary difference between Stott and traditional Pilates1 and ‘Many people misinterpret the Stott technique and accuse instructors of advising their students to arch their back during the various exercises. The neutral spine, however, does not qualify as an arched position,’2 plus ‘The Stott technique also uses the stability ball, the foam roller and the bosu, which is a half ball for some of the exercises. Pilates traditionalists are opposed to using these fitness tools.’3

1In one respect, I agree completely with the principle of teaching people to work in a ‘neutral’ position, however; biomechanically speaking, one can be in a neutral pelvis and not in a neutral spine and vice versa due to postural anomalies and individuality. To force people into neutral is as counterintuitive as insisting on a lumbar imprint.   The imprint has for many years now been understood to be a major cause of Psoas shortening and thus facilitating the anterior tilt, but forcing someone into neutral, could potentially lead to overextension of the lower thoracic region and a loss of integrity between the ribcage and pelvis creating excessive tension in the lower back and weakened abdominals (in one scenario – there are many).

Stott Pilates, like so many other ‘brands’ have taken on board the scientific understandings that have evolved since Pilates’ time.  Encouraging a more neutral position of the axial skeleton, allows the muscles to lie evenly on both sides of the body, thus leading to balance between the agonist and antagonist and between strength and flexibility.  Body Control Pilates™, MK Pilates™, Alan Herdman Pilates™, Polestar Pilates UK™ et al, have also studied and allowed the Pilates method to evolve with the changes in the way that humans live their lives and the progressions made in research.  To claim that Stott is somehow unique in this approach is short-sighted and fundamentally, untrue.

2To claim that many people misinterpret the Stott method and accuse the instructors of teaching an arched back is as delusional as accusing the ‘Traditional Pilates’ teachers of not appreciating biomechanical norms and the value of using 3‘fitness’ tools to support training.  Joseph Pilates was a visionary, a man who evolved, developed and grew in terms of his understanding of physicality and as a person throughout his life.  If he was here today, he would absolutely be using as many bits of kit that he could find to assist his clients in finding the most functional and balanced body that they were capable of.

I have been trained by some of the world’s greatest Pilates experts in the U.K, Spain and the U.S.A and for a time, I worked in a studio in Florida alongside those ’Classical’ teachers trained by Romana herself.  My background is predominantly rehabilitation and biomechanics so my approach is extremely cautious and precise.  I also thought that there would be stark differences between my style and Romana’s graduates.  But, you know what; we all wanted the same things from our clients, we adhered to the principles and within that framework you are teaching the person that is in front of you, not the exercise.  (It just so happened that many of my clients were either injured or unwell). Every movement, every concept, every variation can be manipulated to suit the individual that is in front of you in order to develop functionality.  THAT is how to teach Pilates, because that is what Joe would have done.

So is there a difference?  The only difference is between teachers who ‘get it’ and teachers who ‘don’t’.  The ‘brands’ will always put their own spin on things and share their own ways of understanding the principles, but at the end of the day 2 things will always be the same; the principles and human anatomy.

‘Teach the person & the principles not just an exercise’.







What it means to be a Pilates &/or Yoga Teacher

  • Our hobby, became our passion; which then became our career.

So, despite the fact that we love what we do, it is still work and some days, we feel the same way about going to work as you do. We would much rather curl up with a book on the sofa with a glass of wine and some chocolates or actually ‘attend’ a Pilates or Yoga class for our own pleasure!

  • We go to work when you get home.

Which means that during the day, we are not ‘off’; we are actually doing all the things that you do in the evening.  We are putting the washing on, doing the shopping, ironing and planning for the next evening or day.

  • We never see our partners.

When they walk in, we walk out and many of us work weekends too because we have to be available to work when others are not! We fill the work spaces in the day that are not occupied by the ‘9-5ers’.

  • We struggle to spend quality time with our kids.

We drop them off at school, run around manically either teaching, planning our classes, planning and executing our marketing strategies, keeping our accounts and doing domestic admin or at least, trying to; before collecting children and taking them to after school clubs, dropping them home and going out to teach.

  • It is not, ‘ok for us’.

With reference to our bodies, it is not ‘ok for us’ because we are ‘working out all the time’ and can probably ‘eat whatever we want’.  I refer you to point number 1!  We are working, which means that we demonstrate an exercise or a pose, and then spend the time that you are concentrating; making sure that you are in the right position for maximum gain and minimising the risk of injury.  Often we demonstrate on our ‘good’ side so that you can see the best possible example of perfect execution but that means that our ‘less good’ or ‘less strong’ side just gets weaker and eventually, we get injured. And no, we cannot eat whatever we want – we have to eat sensibly just like everyone else. Working in fitness is not a free pass to puddings and cheese.

  • Owning a studio is not as much fun as you think.

As the boss, just like every other business; you have to be the manager, cleaner, data input clerk, marketing executive, mentor, counsellor, sales and tech support; and that’s before and after you’ve taught anything!  And no, we rarely get to ‘play’ on our kit; when the day is done (at 10pm) we just want to go home.

  • Self-employment does not mean freedom.

Being self-employed means that you don’t have 1 boss, you have hundreds!  We have to be available and fit in around the timetables set by our clients, sometimes that means sitting in a car doing paperwork or answering emails because it’s too early to turn up for the next appointment and the last one finished and hour ago. Our classes are also carved into stone on the studio timetable, to change it means re-organising up to 12 individuals.

  • We cannot just go on holiday whenever we want.

Our holidays, cost us double what they cost employed personnel.  Every day that we are not working, is a day’s pay lost.  No holiday pay here!  I can also guarantee that most teachers will be planning sessions either in their heads or in their notebooks while others around them sunbathe and read books.  (Our books, by the way; usually have something to do with our discipline too).

  • Off sick?

If we cancel anything, you know that we are pretty much close to death.  We will work through most things because, guess what?  We don’t get sick pay!  Unfortunately, I’ve seen teachers get more and more poorly because they don’t give themselves time to recover and their immune systems become weak, which is why they constantly catch everything (so if you have a cold or feel under the weather, consider others before coming to class).

  • We love what we do and could never do, or be; anything else.

There are lots of difficulties faced by teachers of Yoga & Pilates, but for most us; it’s a calling.  You don’t find many spinning teachers dedicating their lives to the art of indoor cycling, or Aquacise instructors travelling the globe to practise with the gurus of water-based aerobics. You will sometimes find ‘former’ fitness professionals finding ‘conventional’ work in an office or in sales, but Pilates and Yoga Teachers, are ‘lifers’.

Namaste 🙂