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 Pilates’1 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’.