Pilates Disagreements

September 27, 2013 at 12:50 pm 52 comments

Well, I suppose it’s time for me to write this. I thought I was going to write about the buttocks or knee stretches today, but…when I saw the number of searches for “Pilates Disagreements” that led people to this blog…I knew that I had to write this first. The buttocks and knee stretches will have to wait.

This is an opinion piece. You certainly don’t need to think the way that I do or agree, but please do remember to be kind if you wish to comment your disagreement. Be an adult. Be a teacher, healer, human. Yes…be human. And do read…digest…think.

When I first started teaching Pilates, I was so excited! (Those who know me know that I am still extremely excited!) Specifically, I was excited to be with other people who just want to help! Help people feel better, stronger and able. There were many options for how I could do this. Before choosing Pilates, I was considering being an orthopedic surgeon, a physical therapist…but Pilates seemed a way to help people in a day to day organic way. It is. And I was thrilled with my choice. Until…

Until I realized how much horrendous in-fighting there was. I was shocked. Disappointed. Horrified, even? What had I entered into? I was disgusted. How could people under the guise of teacher be so petty? Fighting over differences of how to do The Tree or what the name of an exercise is or who has the right to call themselves a Pilates teacher? I saw such disreputable behavior that I became embarrassed to be in this community.

At the time, I had also recognized my own elitist Pilates upbringing. I was taught to believe that the only Pilates was the style that I was doing and that the rest was horrific and should not even be called “Pilates. I was taught to believe that the only apparatus to work on was the one I was working on and the rest was a waste. I was taught to believe that the people who would teach these other styles and work on these other apparatus were bad people. I was taught these things.

Being the good little girl that I was, I listened to my teacher who held herself above all others. I believed what she believed. Until…

Until I spent time with these horrible people…and found they are nothing close to horrible.
And saw the supposedly horrible things these horrible people were doing…and found out that they were also nothing close to horrible.
And worked on this supposedly horrible apparatus…and found out that they, too, were nothing close to horrible.
They were different…
Is different horrible?

Could it be possible…could it be possible that there might be good people doing good work on good apparatus that is different than what you do? And…could it even be possible that maybe some of them might be doing great work…maybe even somethings that I could learn from? Is it possible that I’ve been taught to be close-minded?

You see, there was this time I was partially paralyzed. I would lie in my physical therapy office with electro-stim on or ice or any number of things…there for a long time outside of the owner’s office where I would hear him on the phone talking about some intense lawsuit he was part of. It was early in this lawsuit that I later learned was “The Lawsuit”. The conversations were supremely heated. I could do nothing but lay there (paralyzed) and listen. Why wouldn’t I listen? It was all that I could do. And wonder what the heck was going on.

Sure enough, I learned, when I was training to teach that this lawsuit was still going on and it had to do with that particular man I had heard believing that he should have the rights to the name “Pilates” and that Pilates was just one thing. People moan and moan that this man or, rather, they say “We”…”We lost the lawsuit!”

What was lost? Something that didn’t belong to anyone at all anyway. What is “Pilates” but a made up name. Mr. Pilates himself didn’t even call his work “Pilates”. He did “Contrology”. That is what ought to have been solidified as something that Mr. Pilates created. And what people who say “we lost the lawsuit” are doing and teaching is rather different than what Mr. Pilates did anyway. (It is…take a look at archival footage and you will see how different it is from what you do.) So…what’s the big deal? And look how it’s divided everyone…a bunch of people who promise to help are all fighting over stupidity.

Yes…I did just judge and call it stupidity. Because you see…I have given myself the gift that most people who still squabble about this stuff have not…I have taken sessions and workshops and had tea, drinks, lunch, dinner with so many teachers who teach differently than I do. Who have had different training experiences. Who were on the “opposite side” of “The Lawsuit” and you know what? They are all fantastic people. (Of course, there are lousy people, too, don’t get me wrong.) Do I have to agree with their version of The Short Spine? No. Do I have to agree with anything? No. But maybe I will see that they are helping other people. Maybe I will see that they are smart and thoughtful. Maybe…

And maybe those people from “the other side of The Lawsuit” will find value in me. Maybe we all can find value in each other.

I guess what I’m getting at…is what are people disagreeing about? Why can’t you just go do your thing and do it well. Didn’t the Pilates world actually expand into super-popularity during this time of “The Lawsuit”? Doesn’t our diversity help the public at large because not everyone reacts positively to the same thing. We’re all needing different styles of personalities to “connect to”…maybe even different personalities of exercise. Why is your way the only way? Really? Really. Why do you think your way is the only way. Narcissistic, don’t you think?

And…I know some get really upset that some teachers don’t know the difference between what Mr. Pilates created and what someone else did. Well…is that really your problem? It’s so very not your problem. Why are you spending energy on something that doesn’t actually matter?

And some get upset that there are others who don’t believe that what they do has value. Is that really your problem either?

Why not just stick to what you’re doing, explore your education, be a critical thinker and remember why you came to Pilates in the first place?

I recall that I came to Pilates because I wanted to help people feel better and stronger. It just so happens I was in a particular studio and learned a particular style that was available to me. I make decisions every day that inform how I will teach. I continue my education in many different ways…outside of Pilates itself…and use that education to inform my Pilates teaching. I try to meet as many different people as I can and explore their different thought processes…in and out of Pilates. I encourage you to do something of the sort for yourself.

You can’t really teach anything of consequence if your experience is limited.

Yes…that is an educated judgement. You simply have nothing to share if you have not explored outside of your small box. Indoctrination does not a teacher make.

A little kumbayah, my friends, in the sense of “can’t we all just be friends?” What’s the big deal anyway? It’s time to stop demonizing “the other”, see our similarities and appreciate differences. Picking “the other” apart is simply ridiculous at this point. Grow up. It’s just a sign of lack of confidence. The people who do that in the on-line forums…I know them well…as charlatans (great word for “Faker”). They don’t know what they’re doing in the first place. They attack out of fear.

People of all styles of Pilates all around the world…just practice, study, learn, accept and grow.


***As always…if you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you and share with our colleagues! and…

Below is info on:
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Though this is using Joseph Pilates’ rhythms…this work applies to all styles of Pilates. It’s universal.

In this workshop, you will learn…
1 – the value and purpose of each of the Mat and Reformer exercises at what is commonly referred to as the “Advanced” exercises
2 – the rhythm and accents that Mr. Pilates coordinated with these exercises
3 – the purpose of those rhythms and accents
4 – how to count the rhythm of each exercise
5 – how to coordinate the counts with each movement of each exercise
6 – how to teach in rhythm and create a successful workout

We all need tools to make teaching and learning easier…this is a great one!

More information: http://www.TheVerticalWorkshop.com/html.showcase.php

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If you have any questions about Pilates, injuries, biomechanics…just email me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com I will always work to get you answers.
Thanks for taking the time to read!
– Shari Berkowitz
The Vertical Workshop
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52 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Victoria Kaintz  |  September 27, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Here here! CHEERS to you Shari for a beautifully worded opinion!

    • 2. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read this!
      – Shari

  • 3. Maria Leone  |  September 27, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Well said Shari!!!

    • 4. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      Thank you!
      I am so grateful for you in my life…even though we are many miles away…if we didn’t break through the barrier…that would have been the biggest shame! Thank you!
      – Shari

  • 5. Ruth Alpert  |  September 27, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Thank you so much! I really appreciate your honesty and willingness to speak out loud about this issue. I feel that we have bigger fights to focus on: to educate the public. A well trained teacher, from whatever “flavor”, is much better than someone who never went through a thorough training at all. That is a stronger dividing line than the variations-on-a-theme between the lineages!

    • 6. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:41 pm

      Hello, Ruth!
      Thank you for reading this and letting me know!
      Yes, indeed, we must educate the public…simply on good exercise. That’s what’s most important. It breaks my heart when I hear of people doing any sort of exercise that is ultimately hurtful. And poor teaching can be extremely dangerous.
      All the best,
      – Shari

  • 7. Charles Abbott  |  September 27, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Articulate and interesting as ever, Shari. My Pilates teacher training was 1,200 hours and it covered a lot of ground. Although we never really categorised it as such, it would probably be described as “evolved” (because it wasn’t exclusively “Classical”), although all the classical rep was included. So I guess I am either “Classical plus”, or “Classical minus”, depending on the perspective!

    George Gershwin apparently refused to distinguish between classical and popular music; instead, he thought music was either good or bad. I think we could learn a lot by following your (and George’s) open-minded lead.

    • 8. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Hello, Charles,
      It’s lovely hearing from you! Thank you for reading and for your kind words!
      And…I appreciate your comment about George Gershwin (I am among his great fans)…and you wrote it on the anniversary of his birthday.
      All the best to you!
      – Shari

  • 9. Hilary Opheim  |  September 27, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Thank you! When I was going through my training I will never forget what I was told and I tell my trainees the same thing today. There are many different exercises and many different ways of teaching. Continue to learn, to grow and evolve. You will see many different variations as well as the original work of Joseph Pilates. Take the work and find your own style of teaching, keep the joy and passion for the work and you can never be a bad teacher. Just as every client is different and unique so is every teacher. There are bad ones out there but, it isn’t because they went through one style of training or another. We can all learn from each other, support each other and the integrity of Pilates. I enjoy learning all the different ways and it was keeps me going and passionate as a teacher. Thank you Sheri for a great article!
    Hilary Opheim

    • 10. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:43 pm

      Hello, Hilary,
      Many thanks to you for reading this and writing a comment!
      I appreciate your perspective! I wish that more people are taught what you were about our community…fromd ay one! Thank you!
      – Shari

  • 11. Christa Gurka  |  September 27, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. So glad you are coming to help our community grow in our practice and expand our knowledge in 2014.

    • 12. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:45 pm

      Indeed, the entirety of our world-wide community has much expansion of knowledge to discover! That is the beauty of it! And I’m thrilled that I get to come work with and enjoy yours in May 2014!!!
      Thank you!
      – Shari

  • 13. Sally Ferrington  |  September 27, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    I had a very similar experience. Great article!

    • 14. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:46 pm

      Thanks for reading this article!
      I’m sorry that you had to endure the same indoctrination, but it sounds like you’ve flown away from it, too!
      All the very best,
      – Shari

  • 15. agirlaboutpilates  |  September 27, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Interesting post…..I guess whenever there is debate around a particular ideology disagreements will exist. I feel as long as one is clear on ‘the why’ you started teaching/ practicing Pilates ‘the how ‘ becomes secondary.

    • 16. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Yes, yes, you are correct! Even my boyfriend, a great jazz musician, has to deal with this on a daily basis: What is Jazz? It’s ridiculous, really.
      And, yes, it’s “the why” that is important!
      All the best to you!
      – Shari

  • 17. chantal  |  September 27, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    I have the chance to work at a studio where the owner wants the best teachers no matter what school they’re from. She chooses teachers that are open minded and want to share to become the best they can be. We learn Soo much from eachother it’s awesome and at the end, clients are benefiting a great deal from it.

    • 18. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:48 pm

      Chantal, how fortunate you are and what a wise owner of the studio where you work!
      We do learn so much from others!
      Thank you!!
      – Shari

  • 19. Wade Edwell  |  September 28, 2013 at 12:25 am

    Shari, wonderful words! I’ve always thought this and I’m glad there’s people who are keen to voice it. At the crux of it all we’re responsible to the needs of the client. By experiencing and learning as broadly as possible we can make more informed choices when programming for our people. Knowledge is power and to shut yourself off from possibilities is to shut yourself off from growth. The average human body and what it labours through daily has changed greatly since Jo began his work, much like how the English language has changed over the centuries. Our work needs to reflect this and we should be obsessed in servicing people as best as we can with a learned and considered approach. Lastly, Pilates training should encourage this- don’t follow a script, seek out knowledge and lead.

    • 20. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read this article and share your thoughts!
      You are correct! Our responsibility is to the client and the more we learn the more we have available to use! As you said: “Seek knowledge and lead.”
      Thank you, Wade!
      – Shari

  • 21. pattie mcginley  |  September 28, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Bravo and THANK YOU!!!

    • 22. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Thank you for spending time on this article and letting me know!
      Thank you!!
      – Shari

  • 23. John Steel  |  September 28, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Shari, Really good stuff which needs repeating over and over. Not sure you didn’t write about buttocks stretching in a beautiful Zen way…

    • 24. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      John, you have brought a big smile to my face!
      Perhaps that was, indeed, the Zen way of stretching the buttocks!
      Thank you for always taking the time to read these articles and share your thoughts!
      Big Smile,
      – Shari

  • 25. Janet burke-Allen  |  September 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    As always you hit it on the head. We all need to see we are all trying to do the same thing… help!! Excited to see and work with you again in Nov.!

    • 26. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      Indeed, we’re all trying to do the same thing!
      I’m excited for November, too!!
      Thank you!
      – Shari

  • 27. Laurette Ryan  |  September 28, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Mwah – Thank You!!!! Well said!

    • 28. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      Mwah to you, too!
      Thank you for spending some of your time on this article!
      – Shari

  • 29. Amanda  |  September 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Fabulous read & totally spot on! Thankyou for bringing this subject up. I do believe Joe would have totally agreed with you. I am pretty sure contrology would have evolved alot in the last 46 years since Joe passed away. Great thread & lets get rid of “Pilates snobery”

    • 30. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Thank you!
      I couldn’t agree more: let’s get rid of the snobbery. No matter what your “lineage”…you’re only as good as the work that you’re doing today and how you’re growing! Growth!
      All the best!
      – Shari

  • 31. France  |  September 28, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Bravo !

  • 33. Hila Paldi  |  September 29, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Yes Yes and Yes!! Thank you!!!!

  • 35. Christine Binnendyk  |  September 29, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Well said! Here’s how look at it: I’ve got a specific amount of energy & focus to spend each day. How much do I want to spend on teaching, learning and creating, and how much do I want to waste on judgng and complaining about what others did or didn’t do? Can’t have my cake and eat it too.

    • 36. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      Oh, Christine! You’re so right!
      I often think of it as that we only have 24 hours in a day…but I like your thought of we only have a specific amount of energy and focus to spend… How we spend it is a choice? I’d prefer to spend it on other things much more fun!
      All the very best, Christine,
      – Shari

  • 37. The Body Sleuth  |  September 30, 2013 at 12:18 am

    I have struggled so much with the questions of authenticity which can so easily and frustratingly morph into a right and wrong dichotomy. I am biased because it was of the utmost importance to me that I understand Pilates thoroughly. Given that my initial experiences with Pilates (lessons through to earning a certification) were on one side of the law suit and I still felt completely in the dark until I began to train with people on the other side I’m biased even further. I see tremendous value in digging deeply enough into the work so that I have a verified sense that I understand the original form and intent. But on the other hand I can easily see all the opportunities for derivation that exist within the method and how it would be so interesting and beneficial to explore and develop methods from any of them. Pilates is what it is, has the history that it does. Questioning it all may not yield any definitive answers. Yet out of respect for the original work, I believe that it is important for us to keep one eye on the past and out of respect for ourselves, the other on our present experiences. Sorting through the various cults of personality to arrive at what feel like “real truths” is quite a challenge, but I feel worth the effort for the peace of mind and confidence that come from a real sense of understanding. The ramifications of the current state of Pilates is clear, professional integrity is up for each of us to define for ourselves. The diversity of what is called Pilates gives us tremendous freedom and responsibility in equal parts.

    • 38. John Steel  |  September 30, 2013 at 3:31 am

      Loved this comment and totally agree.. One does need to know the grammar, the structure, in order to move on. But if a language’s sole expression is restricted to the rules of grammar, it, like Latin, dies. Hopefully Shari’s blog and these comments will start to bridge the gap.

      • 39. The Body Sleuth  |  September 30, 2013 at 11:49 am

        Yes! I should have said thank you to Shari for initiating the conversation. All we have is ourselves. Pilates has always been a result of human relationships, the good the bad and the ugly. By engaging with each other we sustain the work.

      • 40. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 10:07 pm

        Yes, yes, indeed…these relationships are something that sets our Pilates business into a different realm. We have a very personal business…and these relationships are what can continue to make us thrive!
        Thank you!
        – Shari

      • 41. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm

        John, indeed, I agree. That is a wonderful analogy: “if a language’s sole expression is restricted to the rules of grammar, it, like Latin, dies.”
        Let’s live!
        – Shari

    • 42. theverticalworkshop  |  October 1, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      Liza, I hear you loud and clear and so do many. With that, we can remember that freedom is key. Dig into whatever you wish, as I know I certainly do…and allow others to do the same. I clearly find the utmost value out of learning Joseph Pilates original work, in fact it is only his exercises that I teach and I am fortunate to have a very large vocabulary of his work more than a certification program provides. But that education was a choice. And I must not be biased against others who made other choices different than I did…and I hope that they, too, are not biased against me for my choices. I agree with you…the current diversity “gives us tremendous freedom and responsibility in equal parts.”
      Thank you for taking the time to read this and share your thoughts,
      – Shari

  • 43. Amy Aranoff  |  October 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    As in all things… “there are many paths that lead to the top of the mountain.” Let us be respectful of the paths that others take and stay focused on our own path. I aspire to take workshops, to learn from other instructors and to become the best instructor I possibly can be. I thrive on learning from others. It excites and inspires me…the beauty of being an instructor is to be openminded and flexible; to learn from each client we encounter and to learn from others. Those who refuse to share their creative ideas and those who refuse to accept creativity in their instruction are only limiting themselves. Let’s be better as instructors, be better listeners and better learners….isn’t that our common goal?

    • 44. theverticalworkshop  |  October 13, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Well said, Amy. And thank you!
      All the best,
      – Shari

  • […] Pilates Disagreements […]

  • 46. Girls Gone Wild | Fabulous 50's  |  October 16, 2013 at 9:01 am

    […] Pilates Disagreements (theverticalworkshop.wordpress.com) […]

  • 47. Your Every Pilates Question Answered | Pilates Bridge  |  October 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    […] If you took classes from the instructors trained by different Pilates schools you might have noticed some quite obvious differences. These differences can get really confusing and annoying. I applaud Shari Berkowitz for speaking up about the nonsense of Pilates disagreements – dig a little deeper into her article to figure out what true Pilates really means. […]

  • […] Pilates Disagreements […]

  • 49. Lacy  |  October 22, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks for this article. I enjoy stopping in regularly to read your well-rounded posts.

  • […] Pilates Disagreements […]

  • 51. Tina  |  March 13, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    Congratulations on completing your master’s!! Cheers! and thanks for a great article.


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