Entropy has no place in Pilates

June 26, 2009 at 9:01 pm 13 comments


Dictionary: en·tro·py   (ĕntrə-pē)

 (Symbol S) For a closed thermodynamic system, a quantitative measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work.

  1. A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system.
  2. A measure of the loss of information in a transmitted message.
  3. The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.
  4. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.

Here is my quest.  (I hope you will join me on the journey):

I recognize that in the transmission of information, a lot of information is lost.  Remember the old telephone game?  You’d sit around the table with 10 of your little 5-year-old friends at the birthday party and one person would start off with a sentence.  Each little 5-year-old would whisper that sentence in to the next person’s ear and pass it around the table.  By the time it got back to the first person…the sentence was completely different.  Information was lost, changed…this is entropy. 

So…we teach Pilates.  We pass information from one person to another.  We must have the least amount of lost information as possible.  We must not lose information or mutate it.  We need to have the least amount of entropy as possible. 

Why?  Because what Joseph Pilates created was ideal.  We’re to use and adapt it for the individual in front of us, but it’s his Method that worked.  When you start putting your own versions of exercises and orders of exercises in to the workout; when you start to use your less than appropriate apparatus and less than brilliant tools in to the studio, then you lose the integrity of what makes Pilates/Contrology work. 

Look…I’m a pretty creative person.  I write poetry and essays (and blogs, apparently), I paint on big canvases and small, I play the piano, I design and make jewelry, I make my own clothing (wow…I do a lot) and more…so I’m not saying don’t be creative…just use it appropriately!  Be creative in other venues.  Be creative with the use of your personality when you teach; with the sound of your voice (but always use Joseph Pilates’ rhythms!), with the metaphors and images you use, but don’t go creating your own exercises and call it “Pilates”.  Then that means that you have to make sure that you’re teaching and transmitting the appropriate information with the least amount of entropy!

So, what do you do?  You guessed it!  You study with the most educated teachers you can.  And if you’re the educator…keep studying and stay true.

I got an e-mail from a teacher the other day who wants to study with me.  It was lovely.  I asked her if she is already trained classically.  She didn’t know.  That’s a problem.  You need to know what it is that you’re teaching.  And not just because your teacher told you so, but because you’ve done some searching.  You’ve read Joseph Pilates’ books, you’ve seen his film (on video), you’ve spoken to and worked with the most classical teachers who are educated in these ways and directly from Joseph Pilates himself. 

Let entropy happen where entropy does: 

1 – When you have a glass of ice water in a hot room, the water warms up and the air around it cools down, condensation occurs and beads of water form on the glass.  Energy is lost in this seeming transmission of heat.  Energy is lost in the energy it takes to heat the water and glass and cool the air and water in the air.  Entropy.

2 – The amount of energy Southern California Edison pumps out to light one little light bulb in your house is faaaaaaaaaaaaar more than actually reaches your cute little bedside lamp.  The loss of energy in resistance and transmission…entropy.

3 – You are told that you need to show up at 7:30 p.m. sharp, but you were very busy when that information was relayed to you, you show up at 8:30 p.m. and are sure you’re correct.  That loss of information (that got you in trouble)…entropy.

Let’s have entropy where entropy belongs.  It has no place in Pilates.


****Please, oh, please, comment on this and all other blogs if you wish!  I’d love to have active conversations and not just a monologue!  And, as always, if you have a topic you’d like me to blog about…please let me know!****

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Taking the Mystery Out of Pilates Heart Starter

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Troy  |  July 2, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Nice blog, as usual. I agree with you about the Method. I’ve been doing the same old mat workout for years now and don’t get tired of it but I’m a creature of habit, by nature. I have a good friend who was so happy to tell me that she’s been taking Pilates lessons for a year. At her studio, she tells me, “we never do the same thing.” It’s not a “classical” studio but she’s enjoying it. Perhaps there are those who like the same ole’ same ole’ and those who need variation all the time. I’m finding that the people who stick with classical Pilates are those “same ole’ same ole” people.

  • 2. SACHIYO DESU♪  |  August 3, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Dear Shirley.

    You are happy. I am also happy.

    Thank you for a very wonderful class.
    It was impressed very much.

    However, there is a consultation.

    Studio yogi doesn’t have the class of the [Power Pilates] in each studio.
    I do not mysteriously become it.

    Is this a strange idea?

    The license doesn’t reach, and the answer of the question sent the other day cannot be gotten still.
    It is sad.

    When does your DVD go out?
    I want to perform if there is a chance.

    It is very hot in Kyoto now.
    However, it is a very wonderful as know to you town.

    It is believed that it is possible to meet again.

    It prays for your happiness and success.

    • 3. theverticalworkshop  |  August 17, 2009 at 3:18 am

      I hope to see you again! Thank you for reading my blog and spending time with me in Japan! I pray for your happiness and success, too!

  • 4. Kim  |  August 6, 2009 at 2:47 am

    Yes, it is the same workout – with a few variations here and there, but the wonderful thing about Pilates is that it works to balance your body…doing it again and again gives you the opportunity to master it. And the benefit is that you move through life with an awesome balanced body!

  • 5. jim  |  August 11, 2009 at 12:51 am

    shari – the random thought I had to hit your site tonight found this entry. many years ago you and I spoke about entropy, and the beauty that can sometimes be found in chaos.

    I’m not at all surprised that you’ve found the beauty in putting it in its place and striving to keep the discipline pure.

    • 6. theverticalworkshop  |  August 17, 2009 at 3:16 am

      Thank you, Jim! It’s great hearing from you! I hope you’re still doing Pilates! Thank you for reading this and writing to me!

  • 7. Alex  |  May 11, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    I have a question I didn’t know where to post so I picked this one!
    To be fair I am not even sure how to write it so it makes sense!
    I saw some teaching, really good, so good, respected teacher etc liked everything she said, learnt loads!
    I got sucked into her teaching Breathing (wall unit) chest exp (kneeling – standing) she had me hooked, everything made sense was all lovely, ticked all the boxes, I would have loved to have taken a session with this teacher!
    But! It got me thinking, is this how Mr P would have taught it?
    I know its unanswerable, but have a go Shari? Please..
    So how to explain, the way it was taught (I loved the way it was taught) Primary + Secondary stabilization, hold on to the shoulders and press the bar to the edge of the mat “ONLY” and lengthen, resist etc!
    “Its about lengthening away, not pressing down”
    All magic so far, except for the “ONLY” Bit!
    Then proceeds (very nicely) to demonstrate what happens to the shoulders if you over press etc!
    So who decided the edge of the mat was it?
    So what happens if somebody could go half an inch further and still keep all those balls in the air?
    After seeing Mr P make sure people got that extra “half inch” I would have imagined him wanting the bar pressed all the way! Not with out thought, or regardless of anything else!
    If this could be true-ish, how much else is the same?

    Have I mis-understood?
    Is it really worth considering? The differences from then to now, a half inch here or there?

    • 8. theverticalworkshop  |  May 11, 2010 at 9:31 pm

      Alex, thank you!

      I had posted a very verbose response…then decided to cut it down to this:
      Mr. Pilates would absolutely not have taught it the way that we teach it now. I’m certain he’d go for more strength and less form. I believe in this; however, most teachers are not ready to teach like this for a long time. I suggest that we begin teaching the way our very safe teacher training programs teach us to do it and then if we ever develop true understanding from years and years of practice, observation and study, then with that true physical and intellectual understanding, we can teach more instinctually like Mr. Pilates did. Until then we must teach cleanly, but challenge our clients far more. Cue more, but speak less. And, certainly, practice on ourselves more and study!

      Thank you for your your mindful questions, Alex.

  • 9. Alex  |  May 12, 2010 at 8:32 am

    I am sad you cut it….but I also understand I think!

    Personaly the value of reading it isnt easy to put across….I would go a long way for more like it.

    Best left there maybe….

  • […] Entropy has no place in Pilates2009/06/26 […]

  • […] Entropy has no place in Pilates2009/06/26 […]

  • 12. The Vertical Workshop's Pilates Teacher Blog  |  December 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    […] Entropy has no place in Pilates2009/06/26 […]

  • 13. The Vertical Workshop's Pilates Teacher Blog  |  December 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    […] Entropy has no place in Pilates2009/06/26 […]


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