In the midst of syllabus construction, I have recovered some very interesting notes from workshops taken over the last twenty-two years. The first time I saw Pilates performed on a reformer, I was smitten. This work was resonant with the dance and gymnastics worlds in which I worked. The discipline and detail that every movement artist strives to achieve were present in the exercises presented that evening. I wanted to know more.
Joseph Pilates must have been a man consumed by his personal research into health and fitness. We can see this when we look at the photographs that document his work that he named Contrology. It was unusually fortunate that he had the prescience to preserve his work for future generations through film, photography, and writing.
I am particularly curious how the word studio became a common nomenclature for the place where we study Contrology. Joseph Pilates called his facility a gym. The definition of the word gymnasium is a school that educates between primary and secondary schools that usually means grades 1 through 12. A Gymnasium is a facility for the training and education of the physical body. However, it is clear in Return to Life, that Joseph Pilates was speaking more in terms of the classical German word gymnasium or place of study that encompassed many kinds of thought and discipline.
Another source for those of us who were not fortunate to study directly in the gym with Joe and Clara is the teaching that they passed to others. The First Generation Pilates Teachers have been very active in instruction and dissemination of their experience at Joe’s gym. Each of them had a different experience. Each of them had the same Pilates teacher as evidenced by the continuity that threads through the work as taught by each of these gifted teachers.
The next generation of Pilates teachers have a responsibility to remember it is our duty and privilege to continue to provide a facility for the training and education of the physical body through thoughtful practice and discipline. A studio or gym can be large or a small space. What makes the space alive is the energy of teaching. The consistency that is critical is the pursuit of health and excellence with commitment, personal practice, and relentless search for excellence.
It is my hope that the first definition of gym, where movement education from grades 1 through 12, will become the expectation of every parent so that each child develops the healthy habits that were part of Joseph Pilates’ mission. One of my clients is a retired snowboard competitor. He is now a husband and father of three children. He comes to Pilates because of his back injuries that were sustained as a competitive athlete. His feels that Pilates is the platform from which all athletic activity must begin. And he regrets that he was not taught school or within his sport. If so, he believes that would not be in chronic pain. He is 37. He is improving with his practice.
We have a job to fill as Pilates teachers. We must teach impeccably and continue to educate the public so that everyone learns the basics. The gym of study should return to the presentation physical training for everyone.