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March 27, 2014

— by Rosalind Gray Davis

“Pilates has changed,” says Nora St. John, MS, education program director for Balanced Body®. Today, she explains, many Pilates teachers are well educated in biomechanics. “An understanding of both anatomy and the mind-body connection makes you a better teacher and certainly a better problem solver.

“In the best situation, Pilates is taught with the idea of, ‘Who is the client in front of me? What are his or her goals? How can I use this environment to help the client achieve those goals?’ I think this is a good contemporary view of Pilates.”

How are top Pilates educators respecting Pilates principles while allowing the repertoire to evolve in response to scientific findings and new equipment? Learn how present-day Pilates is blending successfully with other modalities, and discover the latest programs that are making that possible.

Support for Change

Sharing St. John’s sentiments about the importance of exercise science and conscious mind-body movement in an evolving Pilates world are Tom McCook, co-owner and director of Center of Balance in Mountain View, California, and a master instructor of Pilates and CoreAlign® for Balanced Body®, and PJ O’Clair, owner of clubXcel and Northeast Pilates, a STOTT PILATES® Licensed Training Center in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.

“Understanding how the body and the nervous system are designed to move gives us the ability to teach our clients how to move better and with less strain and less wear and tear,” says McCook.

“The body is not designed for performance; it’s designed for survival. The joints need to be mobilized before doing anything muscularly difficult. This allows a person to feel safe before performing a movement. We need to show our clients how to let go of excess tension and how to improve their posture and their body mechanics.”

“STOTT PILATES changed the order [of the Pilates repertoire] quite a few years ago because we felt that it was imbalanced,” says O’Clair, who clearly sees science informing the consciousness of the contemporary Pilates community. “Joseph Pilates was a brilliant man, but [based on] current exercise science, we believe [his original sequence included] too much flexion. People are already spending a great deal of time in flexion in their daily lives,” she says.

McCook agrees, pointing to the many hours clients spend sitting, driving a car or working on computers every day. “This makes you question whether or not it would be a good idea to start your workout with a flexion exercise. You are just doing more of the same thing. [We need] to look at the body and find the most functional movement for the person.”

Innovative Programs and Equipment

Over the years, creative instructors have found novel ways to combine Pilates with other exercise modalities. Pilates and yoga have blended well, for example, and less obvious hybrids—like Pilates and indoor cycling—have also enjoyed success. But new programs and equipment are enabling Pilates educators to refine their approach, expand their reach and fill in arguable gaps in the classical repertoire. Among today’s available resources are CoreAlign, ZEN•GA™ and barre workouts.


The CoreAlign method, according to McCook, is designed to improve functional movement patterns, posture and balance, and to provide a full-body workout. The equipment consists of two tracks and carts that move independently with smooth resistance (assistance) created by six elastic resistance tube assemblies on each cart. Movement is possible in one or both directions. A ladder (wall-mounted or free-standing) is used in most of the exercises.

For more information, please see “Pilates Blending” in the online IDEA Library or in the print edition of October 2013 IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.


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