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Classical Pilates: how it differs to modern forms of Pilates (and why celebrities still love it)

Harper's Bazaar (UK) logo Harper's Bazaar (UK) 15/02/2019 Bridget March
a person sitting at a piano: Yes, Classical Pilates involves the reformer, and yes, you will sweat. Here's what you need to know about how it differs to modern forms of Pilates © Exhale Pilates London Yes, Classical Pilates involves the reformer, and yes, you will sweat. Here's what you need to know about how it differs to modern forms of Pilates

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a disciplined physical system which was created by German anatomist Joseph Pilates in the early 20th Century. Through a series of precise, controlled movements it targets all muscle groups in the body whilst working on posture, functionality and flexibility. It’s also one of the ultimate mindful training practices, aiding stress and anxiety relief through breathing exercises, which is one of the key principles of Classical Pilates.

Classical Pilates © Exhale Pilates London Classical Pilates There are endless adaptations of Pilates currently offered at studios and gyms, but Classical Pilates is considered to be the practice in its truest form. That’s not to say that other versions should be dismissed – far from it – but if you’re looking for authenticity, this might be where you want to start.

Gaby Noble, owner of Exhale Pilates London, whose clients include Harry Styles, Sadie Frost and Jools Oliver, explains that: “Classical teachers are required to go through a rigorous training program, with a minimum of 600 hours of training/apprenticeship, under teachers who are within the lineage of Joseph Pilates.”

How is Classical Pilates different?

a woman standing in a room: Classical Pilates © Exhale Pilates London Classical Pilates In terms of how it stands apart from other forms, Noble says: “Often the Pilates classes we see offered now are fusion based, using some of the elements of Pilates (generally the mat or reformer), but incorporating other movement techniques and methods. This means they move away from the true methodology of Pilates and can become more like HiiT training on an unstable surface.” Of course, classes will vary wildly at various studios.

“In the original Classical Pilates method there is a sequence to the work, which was designed to move the body through a full range of movement. The sequence builds intelligently with foundational exercises at the beginning and more complex exercises as you gain strength and control,” she adds. Here, the teachers focus on the entire body, mind and spirit, making it a holistic practice much like yoga.

Noble believes it’s working with all these components that makes it a powerful system. “The transitions between exercises are exercises in themselves and it’s important to keep the work one seamless, continuous flow.” It’s fluid and efficient, she says. “Classical Pilates is dynamic, controlled, flowing – and yes, you do sweat!”

Beyond the Reformer

a person standing in a room: Exhale Pilates London © Exhale Pilates London Exhale Pilates London Classical Pilates classes can require ample apparatus. “Apart from the commonly known Reformer, there are so many pieces of functional Pilates apparatus like the Tower/Wall unit, Toe and Foot Correctors, NeckTenser Meters, Electric Chairs, Arm Chairs, Wunda Chairs and more.” She explains that the apprentices are required to complete and practice the full body of work (from basic to advance level) on all pieces of apparatus to fully understand how the exercises are linked and how the system works.

That’s not to say the mat is redundant, though. “Whether you are using Pilates apparatus or your own body’s resistance on the mat, the series will not leave a muscle or joint untended. Pilates stretches and strengthens simultaneously to improve co-ordination and efficiency of movement as well as creating that long, sculpted look.”

Other benefits

a group of people in a room: Exhale Pilates London © Exhale Pilates London Exhale Pilates London Noble also says that Classical Pilates gives you the tools to facilitate movement from the correct muscles and work on balancing muscle strength. “If the body’s strength and flexibility isn’t balanced, this is when injuries happen. Pilates will also help accelerate your training and recovery periods as your body will work more efficiently.”

As a whole body/mind workout that focuses around the premise that all movement should start from your core, you can gain “better posture, circulation, balance and coordination,” Noble says. “When practiced regularly Pilates will help you to move better and feel better for a happier and healthier body and life.”

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