Pilates Apparatus – So many different manufacturers. Can we teach on anything?
(I’ve owed Troy this blog for nearly 2 years…maybe longer!)
Every year there is another Pilates apparatus manufacturer putting out another line of equipment, stating that this is better, more progressive, less expensive, longer-lasting or whatever else they want to say to get you to buy their apparatus. Marketing, man, marketing! So, what’s the truth? How do you know what works and what doesn’t? How do you pick and does it even matter?
Ultimately, any apparatus can work if you know what you’re doing.
From my perspective, ideally, one would use Pilates apparatus that is closest in design to Mr. Pilates’ actual apparatus doing Mr. Pilates actual exercises in the manner in which he intended. This is how you will get the greatest results from Pilates. That’s pretty simplistic. As I always say, that doesn’t mean it’s easy…just means it’s straightforward.
In the current world of Pilates, we have many variables. Mr. Pilates’ method of Contrology has been played with in every manner imaginable. Equally, his apparatus designs have been retrofitted and redesigned in countless ways. This is pure observation. Not judgement. I think we all can agree on this.
What is out there in terms of apparatus? Well, you’ve seen it all: Pilates designs by Basil, Gratz, Peak Pilates, Balanced Body, Stott Pilates, etc. If you Google search “Pilates Equipment” there are an outrageous number of names that come up…in every country! Most people work on what they were originally trained on. It’s comfortable for them. It’s “feels right” for them. There are great debates about one being better than the other. I’m bored of the debate. Just use what you like and use it well.
I am fortunate to have been exposed to many different apparatus manufacturers as I guest teach in studios and present at conferences. I have found that it is possible to teach Pilates on every apparatus that I’ve worked on. Whether it’s teaching “Classical Transitions of the Advanced Reformer” on Balanced Body’s decidedly non-classical apparatus the Allegro or Gratz’s very classical Reformer. It all works. Now, some work better than others, but it all can be done. It depends on what you’re looking for in an apparatus and in the Pilates session. You need to know what you need…what your clients need. If you’re teaching classical Pilates, then you ought to be teaching on a classical apparatus that allows you to do the exercises in the manner in which Mr. Pilates intended keeping all actions long with the ability to resist strong springs and do full classical transitions (minimum motion with maximum flow). If you’re teaching classically on the reformer, but can’t take the footbar down with your feet after The Hundred…in absolute pure thought, you’re on the wrong apparatus. However, in reality, can you still teach effectively…of course! It’s just modified now, and you must remember that. If you’re trained in a more modified version of Pilates; more for physical therapy, and are used to working on a reformer with different spring strengths or ropes and risers. You’ll find that your method’s exercises may not work easily on a classical reformer where the springs are all the same strength and the leather straps are not adjustable. Does this mean you can’t do your method? Absolutely not! You must learn the apparatus that you’re working on and adjust it to your needs.
Too many new teachers say to me, “I can’t work at that studio! I can’t work with type of reformer!” I say, “You can’t or you don’t like to?” Anyone can work on anything! It just depends on how hard you’re willing to work. Ideally, the apparatus supports our style of teaching. Ideally the teacher can focus her/his efforts on the client’s needs and not spend too much energy making the apparatus work for you. Let’s not waste our energy. Again, ideally, buy and use what works for you! But you need to work! Please don’t allow the apparatus at a particular studio keep you from either accepting a job or renting space there. You can work on anything!
What do I prefer to work on? Pilates Designs by Basil and Gratz.
Why? Because I am a classical Pilates teacher. I teach only Joseph Pilates’ actual exercises in the order that he designed them to be done with his intention that every client get a balanced workout of the mind and body that is appropriate for him/her that emanates from core strength. With that, I work on apparatus that is as close to Mr. Pilates’ actual designs as I can. While training and teaching with Romana Kryzanowska at Drago’s, I had the pleasure of working on some of Mr. Pilates’ actual pieces. Along with several wonderful accessories, we had one of his Cadillacs/Trapeze Tables, a High Chair and a Wunda Chair. Therefore, from my perspective, I always want to work on apparatus that feels as close to the feel of Mr. Pilates’ actual apparatus. I trust that Mr. Pilates, a true genius, designed his apparatus with great thought. I trust that the width of the Cadillac/Trapeze Table was purposeful. I believe the height of the Wunda Chair in relation to the length of the pedal was mindful. I am certain that strength of the springs on the Reformer was necessary.
If you’re in Croatia and someone is making great apparatus out there that suits your needs…get it there. If you want to order from Basil, he’ll ship it to you! If you’re in Southern California and can pick up Balanced Body straight from a conference at a mark down and that’s what you love to work on…fantastic! If your brother is a a carpenter and is going to make you a Trapeze Table from scratch…great! Just make sure you’re working on safe apparatus that does what you need it to do.
And…make sure you are well-educated so that you can safely and effectively work on anything. That doesn’t mean that you will like working on anything, but you ought to be able to do it. How ridiculous would it be for me to walk into a conference workshop of 100 teachers all waiting to learn the Super Advanced Reformer and for me to say, “I can’t do it” because the apparatus is not classical? I prepare myself by spending time with the apparatus before I teach on it and then present to my workshop. I may have to give these teachers notes about how the exercises or transitions must be different because of the apparatus, but I would not say that for any other reason than keeping the integrity of Mr. Pilates’ work. When I teach at a studio that has 3 different manufacturers apparatus and I’ve got a group of 5 teachers taking the session (yes, this has happened more than once), I had better know which apparatus does what as well as be able to guide my clients through the workout appropriately.
What you must not do is make excuses. If you find that you cannot teach on an apparatus, again, it’s your education that is lacking. What shall you do? Take a session with the most senior teacher in that studio. Make sure the focus of the session is learning the value of that apparatus and how to adapt it to your teaching. Ask the manager of the studio if you can work yourself out so that you can get used to their apparatus. Then, when you’re working with your clients, you are prepared. If you do not like the apparatus, please do not share your thoughts on the apparatus with your clients. Please be generous to the owner of the studio and respect her/his space.
As always, work with the best available to you. Study with the best teachers available to you. Practice a lot. Be open to working in different situations on many different styles of apparatus. I just closed my studio in L.A. and moved home to NY. I now find myself honored to be practicing out of several of my friends’ studios. Each week, I’m working on Pilates Designs by Basil, Gratz, Balanced Body, Peak. Each I work out on 4 different manufacturers’ apparatus! And guess what? They all work! I’m getting great workouts and am grateful for my friends’ generosity!
*****Thank you for reading! Please write comments and ask questions! Your comments are insightful and may spark something for another reader and me!
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