Pilates

Is it time to drop the C Words from our Pilates Vocabulary?

Mea culpa – yesterday, I used (one of) the C words.  Twice.  No, I lied – three times!  What, you gasp, nooooo!?!  YES and…, I’ll do it again.  Classical.  Classical.  Classical.  For those who didn’t hear it the first three times.  Classical.  Really, Rebekah, you’re starting to sound like “one of them”. Um, one of whom?  One of them, an elitist.  Because I describe my teaching as classical?  Exactly.  The terms classical and contemporary Pilates lead to arguments,  fighting and probably, the Apocalypse.  Whoa, slow down there.  How does using the term classical lead to the Apocalypse?  Because when you describe yourself as a classical teacher, you imply that classical is superior to contemporary.  That is wrong and in fact exemplifies all that is wrong in the universe.  Away with these distinctions.  Really? But how will people know what I am teaching? They don’t need to know.  Just say you teach Pilates.  So is all Pilates the same, and is everything Pilates just because someone says it is?  Uhhhhh.  Yes.. I don’t know.  Maybe?

Sound silly?  I am obviously exaggerating, but only slightly.  Some members of the Pilates community recently opined that we should no longer use the terms classical and contemporary.  And the editor of Pilates Style Magazine announced that the magazine would not use them because they fostered negativity, an “‘us v. them’ mentality”, and that eliminating them would make “our Pilates world a better place.”  I disagree.  This is not a revival of the tired classical v. contemporary debate.  It is not “us versus them.”  But all Pilates is not the same and pretending otherwise won’t make it so.   As my friend Maria stated when this subject was discussed on social media, “ everyone uses the term classical music or contemporary music .  There are the classical philosophers and the contemporary ones.  Can we just wake up one day and say music is music and philosophy is philosophy….”  There is not A Pilates style; there are styles, plural.  Classical and contemporary are the two primary styles.

Those who seek to abolish the terms classical and contemporary Pilates claim that the Pilates world will be a better place if we do so.  Is this argument an attempt to couch what is in reality a business decision (sell more magazines, attract more students..)?  Or is it misguided political correctness?  Probably a bit of both, but mainly the latter.  Much as the trend toward excessive political correctness in recent years has taken a nosedive into the realm of the ridiculous, the same phenomena is starting to take root in the Pilates world.  We cannot describe our style or lineage without offending those who do not conform to the definitions we use.  Shall we no longer use any descriptions that others might find exclusive?  In that case, should we even use the term Pilates teacher? Why not movement professional?  Or simply professional so that we don’t offend non-movement professionals.

Another argument espoused by those who want blur the lines is that the term classical Pilates is not universally agreed upon even within the classical Pilates community.  (I do not know if this disagreement exists with the contemporary Pilates world).  This is not false.  There is indeed disagreement as to what is considered classical, particularly as there has been a recent shift toward classical and more teachers are beginning to explore the original work. Some believe that classical Pilates refers exclusively to the Romana lineage; others consider it to include the work of the other elders.  But since when do let the failure to achieve a consensus on a definition lead us to just wipe out the word from our vocabulary? That is intellectual laziness.  Again, drawing a parallel to the word Pilates itself – it appears improbable that the Pilates community will ever agree upon a universal definition of the term Pilates.  That ship arguably sailed in the year 2000*.  Does that mean that we should no longer use the term Pilates?

Will blurring the classical/contemporary lines result in a kinder, gentler Pilates world? I defy someone to produce a shred of evidence that substantiates that theory.  Were we to drop the terms men and women, would gender equality ensue, would the pay gap disappear and would sexual discrimination, harassment and violence cease?  If we no longer used the terms Democrat, Republican, liberal or conservative, would everyone hold hands and sing Kumbayah?  Sure, and unicorns and leprechauns exist too.  That people have different opinions on pretty much everything  is reality, and a healthy one.  Negativity ensues when people are incapable of reasonable discussions to voice their opinions.  The use of the terms classical and contemporary Pilates is not the source of the negativity pervading the Pilates community.  The two styles are different.  It is  futile to pretend that they are not,  or to close our eyes and hope the differences go away or go unnoticed.  Expressing a preference for one or the other is in no way equivalent to belittling those who teach differently.  Admittedly, this behavior (belittling) has unfortunately occurred within both the classical and contemporary communities.  However, and  again I cite my friend Maria who astutely stated, “our Pilates world becoming a better place has nothing to do with classical or contemporary.  It will become a better place when people become better people.”  Let’s direct our energy toward becoming better people and teachers .  (Apologies to all non-teachers and non-people I may offend with these terms).

Finally, I would argue that, in our post-lawsuit era*, when anyone can say they teach Pilates, we need these distinctions more than ever.  This sentiment has been echoed by both classical and contemporary teachers.  As my friend Cathy commented, “this is a slippery slope to dumbing down both/all styles of Pilates.  There needs to be a distinction made for purposes of training, for clients who walk into a studio to know what they are paying for, and to continue to honor the work that was developed by Joseph Pilates and by the First Generation teachers, and by modern  teachers who create exercises based on his work.”  It is both possible and rewarding to be part of a greater Pilates community, while maintaining our classical or contemporary identities and also our unique personal identities. Instead of worrying that we weren’t invited to the cool kids party down the block, let’s make our own party.  Ultimately, it boils down to a choice –   celebrate our shared heritage AND our differences?   Or take offense where there is none meant?  Take pride in our own teaching or censor those who choose to underscore their differences? My choice is made.  I plan to keep using the C words.  What about you?

*October 2000 – the term Pilates was deemed a generic term that could not be trademarked.

About the Author

laracroftRebekah is a supremely talented and accomplished human being. In fact, she is so accomplished that to list her myriad accomplishments would take too much time. Suffice it to say that she was voted best all-around in preschool and has saved a ladybug on more than one occasion. She is so nice to animals that she does not even have to be nice to other people. She does not post many pictures on facebook because she does not want others to feel bad about themselves. The word that people use most frequently to describe her is enchanting, although delightful is a close second. She teaches Pilates in her home studio in France (over 200 hours a week), where she is not above making her students do extra teasers if they question her authority or mock her accent. Yes, rumor has it that a few people have apparently dared mock her, but when we went to question them, we couldn’t find them anymore. *note- for those of you who don’t know me, this bio is meant to be humorous and there is no intention to offend animals, ladybugs or humans.

 

Pilates

Mais C’est Quoi le Pilates?

Mais c’est quoi le Pilates ?

Quand j’ai commencé à enseigner le Pilates il y a  quinze ans, la vaste majorité des français n’en avait jamais entendu parler. Lorsque je rencontrais les gens pour la première fois et que je leur ai dit que j’étais professeur de Pilates, leur réponse étaient invariablement « Mais c’est quoi le Pilates ? ». La réponse n’est pas facile… Le problème est que le Pilates est difficile à décrire en quelques mots. Quand j’esquissais un début de réponse, leur réaction était quasiment toujours « c’est comme le yoga ? » Alors j’avais deux choix – soit je me lançais dans une description détaillée de ce qu’est réellement le Pilates, soit j’essayais une réponse courte et j’abandonnais avec – « oui, un peu. » J’avoue que parfois j’optais pour la deuxième solution.

Nous voilà en 2018 et maintenant tout le monde ou presque a désormais entendu parler du Pilates. Decathlon a même un rayon de vêtements « Pilates ». Dans tous les grands magasins, je vois des cercles « Pilates », des ballons « Pilates » ou encore des rollers en mousse «Pilates». La vérité est que les ballons et les rollers en mousse ne sont pas des vrais accessoires de Pilates. Le grand ballon est d’origine suisse et les rollers en mousse étaient utilisés par des kinés pour détendre les muscles. Depuis quelques années, ces outils ont été adoptés par certains professeurs de Pilates, mais Joseph Pilates, l’inventeur de la méthode Pilates, ne les a jamais employés. Joseph Pilates ? Eh oui, le Pilates tient son nom de son créateur, un certain Joseph Pilates, allemand d’origine, né à Mönchengladbach en 1883, qui a émigré aux Etats Unis en 1923. Il appelait sa méthode « contrology ».

Si vous êtes en train de lire cet article, c’est que vous avez certainement entendu parler du Pilates. Peut-être que votre médecin, collègue ou voisin vous a conseillé le Pilates. Mais est-ce que vous savez ce qu’est réellement le Pilates? Maintenant que le Pilates commence à être un peu connu, beaucoup d’erreurs sur la méthode et sur son créateur se répandent, surtout dans les magazines grand public mais également parmi les professeurs de Pilates ?!?. Déjà il y a en a qui ne savent pas que Pilates était un homme. Néanmoins s’ils le savent, ils ne connaissent que peu de choses sur cet homme qui a créé la méthode qu’ils enseignent. Certaines de ces erreurs viennent de l’homme lui-même, car Joseph Pilates, tellement convaincu des bienfaits et la supériorité de sa méthode sur les autres méthodes de remise en forme, n’a jamais hésité à embellir son histoire. Une des légendes qui circule est que Joseph a soigné des blessés de guerre pendant son emprisonnement sur l’Île de Man lors de la première guerre mondiale en utilisant les ressorts de matelas pour faire travailler les patients dans leur lit. Et c’est vrai que le « Cadillac », un appareil de Pilates, ressemble un peu à un lit d’hôpital (ou un instrument de torture 😊). Joseph, comme ses compatriotes qui se trouvaient en Angleterre, était bien un prisonnier sur l’Isle de Man, mais des recherches récentes ont démontré qu’il y avait peu de probabilité que Joseph a eu accès à des matelas à ressorts sur l’île, les lits des prisonniers étant construit de paille. Par contre, il a certainement enseigné ce qu’on appelle aujourd’hui les « mat classes » à d’autres prisonniers. Il s’agit des exercices sur le sol, qu’il a décrit en détail dans son livre « Return to Life » publié en 1945.

En quoi consiste le Pilates ? Je vois souvent dans les magazines « fitness » des programmes de renforcement musculaire qui montrent un ou deux exercice(s)soi-disant « Pilates ». Ces exercices n’ont jamais été destinés à être appris en isolation. Le Pilates n’est pas une chorégraphie, mais un système entier, avec plus de 500 exercices. Ce système contient non seulement les exercices au sol (appelés exercices de « mat») mais aussi des exercices qui se font sur des appareils Pilates, tel le Reformer, le Cadillac, le Wunda Chair et la Chaise Haute, des appareils inventés et brevetés par Joseph Pilates. Chaque appareil a ses propres exercices mais il y en a certains, tels le Teaser ou le Swan, qui peuvent se faire sur plusieurs appareils et sur le tapis. Joseph a développé son système qui doit être exécuté dans un certain ordre sur le reformer ou le mat qui suit une logique définie et qui renforcent, assouplissent et équilibrent le corps en entier dans une série qui comprend des flexions vers l’avant, des flexions latérales, des extensions et des rotations. Il y a même des petits appareils pour les pieds, les orteils et la respiration. Quelqu’un qui choisit les exercices au hasard n’a pas bien compris le fonctionnement du système. Par contre, l’ordre et les exercices sont modifiés si nécessaire par des professeurs pour correspondre aux besoins de chaque élève. C’est pour cette raison que le Pilates peut être pratiqué par les personnes de tous âges et conditions physiques. Et c’est également pourquoi il est préférable de prendre un cours de Pilates avec un professeur qui a reçu une formation intégrale avec un apprentissage d’au moins plusieurs mois plutôt que par quelqu’un qui n’a suivi qu’une formation courte ou pire, une formation en ligne.

Est-ce que le Pilates est comme le yoga ? Parfois les magazines montrent des postures de yoga pour illustrer un article sur le Pilates, d’où la confusion ! Ou encore, ils décrivent le Pilates comme un mélange de yoga, danse et Tai-chi. Le Pilates n’est pas une méthode de relaxation et n’a pas de côté spirituel, même s’il contribue certainement au bien-être global – « un esprit sain dans un corps sain ». Certains exercices peuvent ressembler à des postures de yoga mais le Pilates est une série de mouvements et chaque exercice est même censé enchaîner directement au prochain exercice sans s’arrêter, contrairement au yoga qui consiste à des postures souvent statiques (à part le vinyasa yoga). Il n’y a d’ailleurs aucune preuve que Joseph Pilates ait été inspiré de yoga et plus probable qu’il ai été influencé par la culture physique qui a été déjà populaire en Allemagne quand il était enfant. Dans ses deux livres et pendant ses interviews, il n’a fait aucune allusion au yoga, au tai chi ou à danse comme inspiration mais parle plutôt des mouvements des animaux. Mais une chose est certaine, c’est qu’il était convaincu que sa méthode était supérieure aux autres formes de mise en forme.

Le Pilates est-il réservé aux femmes ? Absolument pas ! Joseph Pilates était un homme et avait beaucoup de clients masculins. Il a enseigné sa méthode aux danseurs, aux boxeurs (lui-même était boxeur professionnel brièvement pendant sa jeunesse), aussi bien à des athlètes qu’a tout le monde. Le Pilates est maintenant pratiqué par beaucoup d’athlètes professionnels, tels Ronaldo et Andy Murray, car il améliore leurs performances sportives et leur évitent des blessures qui peuvent être causées par des déséquilibres physiques.

Est-ce que le Pilates est comme le fitness ? Certains cours de Pilates peuvent aujourd’hui ressembler à des cours d’abdo fessiers, surtout que maintenant on enseigne des cours de « gainage » dans toutes les salles de sport. Mais ce n’est pas en faisant des abdos et en disant à l’élève de rentrer son ventre qui fait d’un cours un vrai cours de Pilates. Un cours de Pilates consiste, normalement, en une série d’exercices qui s’exécutent avec une attention à l’alignement et sous l’observation du professeur vigilant qui corrige les mauvais alignements verbalement et tactilement. C’est pour cette raison que les participants à un cours de Pilates ne devraient pas être trop nombreux. Six à huit personnes est l’idéal. Les cours ne se font généralement pas en musique (à part peut-être une musique du fond) pour éviter que les élèves se laissent distraire au détriment de leur concentration.

Et finalement, le cours de Pilates n’est pas une séance de kiné ni un cours post-natal (même si c’est excellent après accouchement dès que le médecin a donné l’autorisation). Quelqu’un qui souffre d’une blessure devrait d’abord consulter son médecin et faire le cas échéant des séances de kiné. Un professeur de Pilates ne ferait pas travailler la partie du corps qui est blessé mais ferait travailler le reste du corps sans aggraver la partie blessée. Quant aux cours post ou pre-nataux – si vous restez allongé(e) sur le sol pendant tout le cours à travailler uniquement la respiration et le perinée, alors vous n’êtes pas dans un cours de Pilates. Le Pilates, c’est de l’exercice. Vous êtes censé(e)  bouger, transpirer, travailler et vous amuser! Pour trouver un cours de Pilates véritable près de chez vous, vous pourrez regarder sur le site de la Fédération des Professionnels de la Méthode Pilates – http://www.fpmp.fr.

Pilates

When is it No Longer Pilates?

Something caught my eye at the store recently– an aisle with exercise equipment – weights, a Pilates ball (which looks disarmingly like a Swiss ball), and a Pilates Circle.  In France, where exercise is still exotic, this is new and exciting.  Suddenly, Pilates is everywhere.  Skimming through a fitness equipment catalog, I find a Pilates foam roller (which, strangely, looks just like a normal foam roller).   The sporting goods store devotes an entire aisle to “Pilates clothes” (apparently the powers-that-be don’t think people sweat during Pilates because none of it looks sweat-proof).  At the bookstore, I count at least a dozen Pilates books.  On the Internet, I learn of Pop Pilates, Aerolates,  Piloxing,  Piyoga, Yogilates,  Zumbalates, Poolates (my guess is that this has something to do with water and not excrement) and Hot Pilates.  There is a site called pornolates.com and a trademark for sexilates (which lapsed, so it is up for grabs if you are interested).    All the local gyms, vacation resorts, physiotherapists and mid-wives also teach Pilates classes.  It’s raining Pilates!!  But is it really Pilates?  When is it not Pilates?  Enquiring minds want to know.  I want to know.

I don my Jimmy Olsen cap to investigate.  First, what is naked Pilates?  There are a surprising number of videos on the Net.  Please, you are totally going to check it out too.  I find a video with two women who appear to have some Pilates education.   One begins to speak authoritatively about the powerhouse, but then proceeds to say that the pelvic floor, (consisting of the sacrum and the tailbone) must touch the mat.  Um, what?!?  I think that would be cause for alarm as in – Houston, we have a problem!  My pelvic floor is on my Pilates mat, please call an ambulance!  I stopped watching when it became sadly evident that Harrison Ford was not going to make an appearance.  Also, my kids were becoming curious about what I was watching and I doubt they would be convinced that I was doing “research”.  Ten hours later (joke) I am no closer to knowing what is not Pilates and I also don’t know why one would need a knit cap for naked Pilates.  Conclusion – naked Pilates probably isn’t Pilates, but viewers are likely looking for a different sort of “Teaser”.   And “in and up” – well I won’t go there.

Perhaps it is easier to start with the question – what is Pilates?  As a friend put it – is it Pilates just because we say it is or because we want it to be?  Does anything go as it long as it respects the oft-cited “Pilates principles” – centering, control, concentration, breathing, precision and fluidity?  These principles were not defined by Joseph Pilates himself, but by the 1980 Friedman/Eisen book on Pilates and have since been widely adopted. Frequently teachers insist that Joe would be delighted by the changes to his method and would have encouraged teachers to give free rein to their creativity.  Easy to say, but problematic to prove since Joseph is deceased and there is no “Return to Life” after death, as far as we know.

Do teachers really believe that anything goes – “fusion” classes, gym classes, large group reformer classes?  What if the instructor doesn’t know the difference between Joseph Pilates and Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism (as one teacher recounted)? What if the teacher just barks instructions and provides no corrections? What if few or no exercises resemble those in Return to Life, if props like the Bosu, swiss ball or foam roller, which have origins in other methods, are used?  We all laugh when Pilatesology airs parodies with the baby chair on the reformer and the ladder barrel upside down, but that is not that farfetched given what we see on Instagram.  Blaring music?  Concentrating on Sir Mixalot’s fondness for big butts will take our attention away from our own derrière.

Social media is alive with Pilates images, many of them recognizably Pilates, others less so.  Some look useful, others, well…. less useful.  I find myself scratching my head (no, not lice) … is this still Pilates?  At times, the answer is a no-brainer.  Dangerous exercises are clearly not Pilates.  Ever.  End of story.  More often the answer is murky.  And there is a backlash against the so-called Pilates police – any comment that could be perceived as mildly critical is found offensive and its author all but tarred and feathered.  Perhaps we are taking an admirable idea – inclusiveness – too far.  We have no legal standards defining Pilates -should we have no standards at all?

I took the question to a non-classical facebook forum and was surprised to be met with strong opinions on the subject and a clear rejection of the “anything goes”assertion.  Many decried the proliferation of “crapilates”.  But the line between Pilates and Pile-of-shit-ates was unclear.  What makes something Pilates and something else, Poo-lates?  Is it only a question of being safe and functional and following the “principles”?  A good vinyasa or Iyengar yoga class could follow the “principles”.  Can yoga be Pilates?  It does sound silly, but if you consider that any safe movement class that follows the “Pilates principles” is Pilates, then yoga could be Pilates, and even cooking could be Pilates.  A friend of mine suggested that a Pilates class should have a significant number of original Joe exercises.  What is significant?  Ninety?  Fifty?  Twenty?

Many teachers assured me that they harbor the same concerns.  Yet each had a different view of what Pilates isn’t.  Classes that were too slow were not Pilates.  Classes that were too fast were not Pilates.  Adding props like Swiss balls, flexbands or Bosu were not Pilates.  Fusion classes – no.   Too much breath, not enough movement; too much movement, not enough breath.   Too much sweat, not enough correction; too much correction, not enough sweat.  Like Monica on Friends trying to duplicate the chocolate chip cookie recipe, no one could quite pin down the special ingredient that makes Pilates what it is.  Not just the exercises themselves because, as one person noted, a bicep curl could be a simple curl or it could be done in a way that would make it Pilates.  The intention behind the movement is equally important as the movement itself.  Not just the “principles” because other movement methods that are not Pilates may also respect the “principles”.  Not just the equipment because swinging like Tarzan from the trapeze bar does not a Pilates practitioner make.  Not the lack of equipment because Pilates can be done with only a mat.  Some asserted that a Pilates class needs to reference RTL in some way, that the exercises should be traceable back to the originals, that the teacher should, at the very least know who Joseph Pilates was.  Most agreed that a true Pilates teacher needed to undergo a comprehensive and not a weekend program.  And everyone concurred that teachers must respect the integrity of the method, and not merely exploit the name for marketing purposes. One person wrote, “I suspect that what is not Pilates is like porn.  I know it when I see it.”

Social media, however, reminds us daily that many believe that we should be creative with the method.  One teacher wrote that when an experienced teacher truly understands the method, he should feel free to create new exercises.  After all, Joseph both invented and borrowed from others.  True, but he made the method his own and gave it its own name and now it bears his name.  At what point does the creation deviate enough from the original that it should be its own creation?  When grandma no longer recognizes her chocolate cake recipe, it really isn’t still grandma’s chocolate cake.  And she wouldn’t want you to call it that, delectable though it may be.  If it really doesn’t look or act like a duck, maybe it just isn’t a damn duck.  And that’s fine.  It doesn’t need to be a duck.  When a teacher injects enough of his own inventions into the work so that Joe would no longer recognize it, or criticizes Joe’s work as unsafe or primitive, why even bother calling it Pilates? It isn’t Pilates anymore. It is something else.

Some people have argued that no one cares.  That assertion is patently untrue.  SOME people are simply looking for a safe, fun workout and don’t care what it is called.  But many do care and consider it important that the public learn what Pilates is.  They are concerned that non-Pilates classes using the Pilates name either give Pilates a bad reputation because they are, excuse my French, crap, unsafe or misleading.  Contrary to what many say, there is no Pilates police.  I am a not nor do I want to be, a Pilates policeman –this isn’t about me.  But it does matter what the Pilates teaching community promotes as Pilates because that is ultimately what the public will believe.  It is a fact that there is no Pilates trademark – anyway can say that they teach Pilates.  Anyone can also call yoga Pilates.  Legally.  But ethically?

This is a call for reflection –upon our responsibility as teachers to acknowledge and honor the work that went into creating the method, to uphold its integrity, and that of its creator.    Pilates should not be about egos or Instagram likes.  Would Joe have been delighted about the myriad changes to his method that bears his name ?  I am skeptical. Naked Pilates?  Although he DID suggest that one should wear as little as possible to work out, I doubt that he foresaw that naked Pilates would be a thing.

Do not go around policing others or trolling the Internet, but be your own police. Joseph entrusted his method to his teachers, who in turn gifted us with it.  With this gift comes responsibility.  Let us be responsible.  Let us be vigilant against denaturing the method into something that Joe would not recognize.

*special thanks to Patty Turner Mehl for the « porn quote » and the Joseph Smith anecdote.😂😂.

About the Author

laracroftRebekah is a supremely talented and accomplished human being.  In fact, she is so accomplished that to list her myriad accomplishments would take too much time.  Suffice it to say that she was voted best all-around in preschool and has saved a ladybug on more than one occasion. She is so nice to animals that she does not even have to be nice to other people.  She does not post many pictures on facebook because she does not want others to feel bad about themselves.  The word that people use most frequently to describe her is enchanting, although delightful is a close second.   She teaches Pilates in her home studio in France (over 200 hours a week), where she is not above making her students do extra teasers if they question her authority or mock her accent.  Yes, rumor has it that a few people have apparently dared mock her, but when we went to question them, we couldn’t find them anymore.

Pilates

Book Review: Women’s Health Big Book of Pilates

Title : The Women’s Health Big Book of Pilates
Author: Brooke Siler and the Editors of Women’s Health
Publisher: Rodale
Year: 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 426
Availability: Widely available on amazon, etc.
Description and Review:

Brooke Siler is the founder of the extremely successful studio, re:AB Pilates, in New York City, a bestselling author (The Pilates Body, The Pilates Body Kit, Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge and her most recent book, The Pilates Health Big Book of Pilates). She has also created several pilates dvds. Before I review her most recent book, I feel that I should admit to being a little biased. My interest in pilates was first sparked after reading an article about pilates in Vogue Magazine in the 80’s that featured Brooke and actress/model Michelle Hicks. The Pilates Body was my first pilates book purchase, long before I had ever taken a pilates class. I also have Brooke’s other books. Because I have something of a pilates and wellness book obsession, I logically bought The Big Book of Pilates as soon as it became available. I was skeptical however, that it could possibly contain anything new. After all, there are now thousands of pilates books on the market (an amazon search yields 6,858 results ; while some of those may be repeats, that is still a lot of books). Well, I was wrong. I was excited to find new inspiration, particularly for my home workouts. Sometimes, however, life gets in the way, even of pilates. Last year, I bought a house, sold a house and moved my family of six and all our stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. More stuff than a family of six and possibly a developing country should have, including a hell of a lot of books. And so my home workouts suffered and my library was in a state of disarray. But now that things have settled down and that I been able to go through the book in greater detail. I am once again excited about it.

This book is called the Big Book of Pilates with reason. Not so imposing in size, it its 426 pages are absolutely crammed with information, a surprising amount of information. There are over 263 exercises in the book, at least according the cover. Now I confess that I did not go count them all individually (you are welcome to do so ), but I am willing to believe it. The first few chapters are devoted to a description of pilates, a brief biography of Joseph Pilates, an explanation of pilates terms, safety considerations, a question and answer section (Brooke answers the question that every pilates teacher inevitably gets asked – “what is the difference between pilates and yoga,” as well as others, such as whether pregnant or injured people do pilates, what to wear, etc.). I even learned that Joseph Pilates’ niece, Mary Pilates, pronounces the name “Pilates” differently than what I thought to be the correct pronunciation. The book contains photos of the large and small pilates apparatuses (Gratz) and a section on the piIates “elders”, as they have come to be known, with the ones that everyone knows, Romana, Carola, Kathy Grant, Ron Fletcher, Jay Grimes, Lolita San Miguel, Mary Bowen and Mary Pilates, but also Bruce King and Bob Seed. It also includes a ten page section on nutrition entitled Pilates for Your Plate. The writing style is informal and motivating. The format is also designed to motivate, nice glossy pages, hundreds of beautiful color photos, detailed instructions, with diagrams and arrows and other comments accompanying the photos

The mat series is divided into three levels, not the classic three levels that we may be used to seeing, but instead something rather similar to how a teacher would structure a class. Each level has a starter section, a main section and suggested endings, including work on the wall, standing exercises, arm weights exercises. Included are also instructions on transitions and some fresh takes on the classic exercises, such as squat thrusts, jump through to the hundred transition, up-stretch combo. There is even a special section on pushups and planks, which includes a lot of fun variations, such as spider planks, plank jacks, and elephant planks. Each level ends with a page showing the entire sequence for quick reference. The pushup section is followed by a section entitled archival starters and endings and includes some standing and balance work.
Chapter 7 of the book brings us to the home studio section of the book. This part shows us how we can use props to create a complete and inexpensive home studio. The props include the magic circle, arm weights, toe corrector, elastic bands, ankle straps, handles, steps, large ball and medium ball. There is also a homemade toe corrector and something interesting called a tensatoner, (which I have, unfortunately been unable to locate on the internet). Elastic bands and a door stopper, can, for example, be used to replicate many of the reformer and cadillac based exercises, including the arm series, rowing, kneeling arm springs, swakate and many, many others. Following the band section is the ball section. Lest the purists start to grumble, Brooke clearly states that the balls are not part of the classical pilates system; in fact, her exact words are “let me say loud and clear that there was never such a thing as a Pilates ball.” However, as she demonstrates, there are many fun ways to integrate the balls into an at-home pilates workout if one doesn’t have a reformer or Cadillac, chairs or barrels on hand. All of the exercises shown are takes on the classical exercises, including the push-through and the rollback from the cadillac, the saw from the mat, the swan from the ladder barrel and the swimming from the spine corrector, as well as several others. The triad ball stands in for the small barrel in several exercises, such as the helicopter and the bicycle. Stackable steps are used in place of the chairs for exercises such as footwork, going up and pushups. The aforementioned tensatoner is used in place of a foot corrector, can also stand in for a magic circle and is also used with the steps in the wunda-chair-like exercises. Finally, there is also a section devoted to the magic circle.

Following the props section is a chapter called Pilates by Posture that briefly summarizes the most common postural problems (i.e. flatback, Kyphotic-lordotic posture, swayback and scoliosis) and recommends exercises to correct them. Next, the book includes a chapter, Pin-Point Pilates which targets particular areas of the body, abs, back, , glutes, arms, thighs, legs, and feet. Following Pin-Point Pilates is Pilates by Purpose, where the reader takes a quick test to choose a fitness goal, cardio, and calorie burn, breathing and endurance, flexibility and mobility and strength and stability. Each goal has a suggested workout plan. The subsequent chapter is entitled Pilates by Pursuit, and includes the exercises most appropriate for running, swimming and cycling. The last chapter, Pilates RX, suggests exercises to ease chronic aches in the back, neck, knees and shoulders. Finally, there are two pages devoted to resources: continuing education, online classes, clothing, books, dvds and accessories.

To borrow or to buy: definitely buy. As I mentioned above, I bought this book because I loved Brooke Siler’s previous books. I was certain, however, that, with the multitude of pilates books now available, this would be a rehash of the same old information. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong, a rare thing (just kidding. It is only rare for me to admit to being wrong). Not only would I recommend The Big Book of Pilates to my students who cannot come in more than once a week or who are off on vacation for months at a time (as the French are known to do in the summer), but I would also recommend it to teachers for their own at-home workouts, for newbie teachers to help them structure their classes and even to veteran teachers to freshen and spice up their work. The book has so much information that there really is something for everyone.

Pilates

Book Review: The MELT Method

Reviewed by Rebekah Le Magny​
Title: The Melt Method – A Breakthrough Self-Treatment System to Eliminate Chronic Pain, Erase the Signs of Aging, and Feel Fantastic in Just 10 Minutes a Day.
Author: Sue Hitzmann
Published: 2013
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 283
Availability : widely available (purchased on Amazon)
Photos: Black and White

Sue Hitzmann was a popular and famous fitness instructor who even became a host for Crunch on ESPN. Highly muscled and motivated, she often presented at fitness conventions, modeled for the cover of Muscle and Fitness and had a highly successful dvd. She was the picture of health until chronic pain caused her to seek help. Finding no solution from traditional medicine, she was able to find relief at the hands of a craniosacral therapist, which then prompted her to use her own innate healing skills to become a bodyworker herself. Since childhood, Sue had been able to feel subtle vibrations in others. However, this ability was considered strange and Sue was encouraged not to mention it to others when she was a child. She learned to use this skill in her new career and rapidly found new success as a manual therapist.. Sue later met Gil Hedly, a theologian, a Rolfer and an anatomist, who, during a dissection course, introduced her to the mysterious world of fascia, the body’s connective tissue. Sue began rigorously researching fascial science, which is a fairly new science even today and developed her signature method, MELT.
Sue developed the MELT method as a way of helping people reap the benefits at home that previously had only been attainable through bodywork at the hands of a manual therapist.. She explains that many people suffer from chronic pain, which she defines to include achiness, stiffness and swelling that is often unexplainable and mysterious. Because the root of the chronic pain is often not apparent on X-rays, MRIs or blood tests, these people have been told that their pain is either in their head or just a normal part of ageing. Having failed to find relief through traditional means (usually pain medication), they have come to accept their pain as normal and incurable and have resigned themselves to “managing” it. Sue explains that the source of this chronic pain is dehydration of the fascia, inflammation and joint misalignment, all of which tend to occur together. Furthermore, the dehydration, which is caused by repetitive stress and which compromises the body’s tensegrity, tends to have a ripple effect, spreading to other areas of the body. She cites studies that show that chronic inflammation is the primary source of joint damage and not wear and tear. She states that even if we stretch our muscles and work on our misalignment, we must address the fascial system as a whole in order to relieve our pain. The body’s connective tissue needs to stay hydrated in order to remain healthy and function properly. However, Sue explains that once the tissue is dehydrated, it cannot be repaired by simply drinking water. She uses the analogy of a dried up sponge to explain why. A sponge that is dry does not absorb water effectively. It must first be squeezed so that it can absorb fluid. Likewise, the connective tissue must be compressed and then released in order to absorb fluid, which it will then be newly capable of transporting to other cells in the body.
Sue tested her method on her students as she developed it and was surprised to hear that not only did they have less pain, but they were also experiencing less migraines, menstrual cramps and fatigue, and even asthma, which suggested improvements in the body’s nervous system as well as the connective tissue systems. Sue concluded that what she referred to as the stuck stress in the connective tissue systems is intricately linked to imbalances in the body’s regulatory system, that the problems coexist. Consequently, rehydration of the body’s connective tissue system helps the body’s regulatory system find its optimal balance. The premise behind the MELT method is that in ten minutes a day, people can restore hydration to their connective tissue, relieving inflammation and allowing the body to naturally recover optimal alignment and ultimately to feel better, sleep better, look better and age gracefully.
How it works

The MELT method requires a very soft foam roller, which is available for purchase on the Melt website as well as from OPTP or amazon. I have a very soft foam roller that I purchased from Sissel online in France and I find that it is equivalent. Sue cautions against using a traditional foam roller, which is too hard for purposes of the method but says that if need be, you can wrap one up in towels or a yoga mat, or you can use rolled up blankets instead. I did not try any of these options and am a bit skeptical that they would have the same effect. I do find that rolling on the soft roller is a much more pleasant and gentler experience than on a traditional roller or a Grid roller. In addition, the hand and foot part of the method require small balls. I purchased them directly from the MELT site but you can probably use small rubber balls like those you get in a gum machine. MELT stands for Myofascial Energetic Length Technique.The method resolves stuck stress by addressing what Sue calls the four R’s: : Reconnect, Rebalance, Rehydrate and Release. The techniques are broken down into: a Rebalance Technique, which involves an auto-assessment of the body, gentle rocking on the roller and what Sue refers to as 3-D breath; Rehydration Techniques, which includes compressive stimulation (gliding, shearing and rinsing) and two-directional lengthening, as well as decompression. Performing the techniques is called Melting. Sue recommends that you drink water both before and after Melting and that you also perform a body self assessment (she calls it a rest assess) before and after the sequences. She provides an upper body hydration sequence and a lower body hydration sequence, both of which require you to use the soft roller, and also hand and foot treatments, which use the small balls. Sue suggests that you familiarize yourself with these sequences, after which you can begin to mix and match. The mixing and matching is what Sue calls a MELT map – a treatment that includes the Four R’s. Ten minutes is the maximum amount of time one should compress a particular area of the body on the roller, although the maps can take anywhere from ten to twenty minutes.

Review:

Does it Work

must confess that I am feeling aches and pains in multiple areas of my body as I am writing this, so clearly a couple of Melting sessions is not enough to reverse whatever stuck stress I have throughout my body. In addition, Sue just released a dvd which allowed me to see that I was not following her method exactly as I was supposed to do. I will say that I did feel pretty good during and immediately after doing one of the sequences, but I will have to be more persistent to be able to testify as to whether Melt delivers its promises.  That said, there is no shortage of people who claim that MELT is the miracle they have been seeking, that it cured their problems that they could not resolve using other methods. MELT classes have sprung up around the United States (not in France, so I have yet to take a class). I have seen testimony from fellow pilates teachers who have trained with Sue that they experienced changes or witnessed them after only one session using the hand and foot treatment. I cannot, in all honesty, personally attest to any miraculous changes – yet. But I am a bit Mulder-ish. I want to believe! So I will try to Melt every day for a month and I will let you know how I feel. I hope that you will also let us know how you feel if you try the method or if you already use it.

To Buy or Borrow :

I have not done MELT long enough to provide reliable testimony as to whether it truly delivers. However, the explanations certainly make sense and doing a ten minute sequence does have at least a temporary positive effect. I would therefore recommend buying the book. It will “melt” a bit of a hole in your pocket if you buy the book, the roller and the small balls. (Apologies for the bad joke). Ultimately it is a bit of an investment, but I believe that the balls and the foam rollers are good to have even if you don’t follow the method. I do prefer the roller to traditional rollers and it is nice to massage my feet on the balls.