As a Pilates teacher with a rich background in this transformative practice, I've witnessed various evolutions and trends in how Pilates is taught and practised. One such trend is the incorporation of weights into Pilates classes. While this approach can be seen as a departure from the original concepts of Joseph Pilates, it's worth exploring with a thoughtful and balanced perspective.
The Essence of Pilates and the Introduction of Weights
The original concept of Pilates was heavily based on spring work, offering a unique form of resistance that varies with the degree of spring extension. This method allows for a balance in muscle contraction, both concentric and eccentric, and encourages flow with control. Adding weights into Pilates sessions, whether it be kettlebells or hand weights, introduces a different dynamic. While not inherently dangerous, it's a shift from the foundational Pilates principles.
Understanding Today’s Posture-Related Challenges
In today's fast-paced lifestyle, dominated by long hours at desks and frequent use of mobile devices, many individuals suffer from upper body tension. This tension is often concentrated in the neck, shoulders, and hips – areas that bear the brunt of poor posture and sedentary habits. When we bring weights into a Pilates class, especially without addressing existing tensions, there's a risk of exacerbating these issues. Our approach in Pilates focuses on first releasing tension, then mobilising, and finally building strength.
The Creative Balance
I am a fervent advocate for creativity and exploration in movement. Pushing the boundaries of traditional practices can lead to exciting discoveries and enrich the experience for both teachers and clients. However, the core objective of Pilates – to balance the body – must always remain at the forefront. If a client presents with significant upper body tension, the integration of weights needs careful consideration. It might be beneficial for some, but not suitable for others.
Teaching the Body in Front of You
The diversity of clients we encounter in our studios is immense. Each individual comes with unique strengths, limitations, and goals. The principle of “teaching the body in front of you” is essential in Pilates. It underscores the importance of personalising each session. We must consider whether the addition of weights will aid in achieving balance and meeting the client's needs or if it might hinder their progress.
As Pilates teachers, our role is not just to instruct but to guide our clients towards a deeper understanding and connection with their bodies. Introducing weights into Pilates can be an effective tool for some, but it requires a nuanced approach that respects the individual's current physical state and aligns with the fundamental principles of Pilates. Let’s continue to embrace creativity in our practice, while always prioritising the balance and well-being of our clients.