I’ve been doing some major overhauling of my studio, my business and thinking a lot about Pilates in general. It still surprises me that this work called Pilates continues to intrigue, challenge and inspire me still some 18 years after I started. I think it is also interesting that defining what Pilates is continues to be difficult.
For sure, it is the exercises; that classically, very clearly defined repertoire on the ‘Universal Reformer’, ‘Cadillac’, ‘Wunda Chair’ and of course Matwork. I know the classical repertoire. My main teacher, Cary Regan, taught in the New York studio for many years. She hammered home all of the repertoire. I, for myself, have logged hundreds of hours for myself on these exercises, trying to understand and glean more from this work. And I think I have.
I’ve been looking at a bunch of youtube videos lately as part of my ‘re-evaluation’. We may have some small differences in ‘choreography’, but when I see the mess that is passed off as classical repertoire, I can’t believe it. Now I feel completely free to reinvent, reinterpret and create completely new exercises. But if you’re going to do the classical repertoire, do it well – with Control (it was called Contrology after all), with intention, with precision.
Maybe these teachers didn’t have the benefit of the kind of precise teaching that I had. Maybe they haven’t continued to work on the repertoire to ‘get more’ out it. And to be sure there are youtube videos that certainly inspire me. Oh how I wish I had that kind of flexibility and grace. That is what I work on when I do my own Pilates workout.
But I also firmly believe that Pilates is more than the exercises. It is a way of thinking about the body and how it moves. It is learning how movements feel through every range of motion. It is letting the Mind teach the Body but also letting the Body inform the Mind. It is paying attention to what works when. It is discovering the core in every, every movement. And very importantly, it is learning to move the limbs without compromising the spine.
I’ve been doing the level 5 workout again more recently (the most advanced repertoire on the reformer). Even though it is a hard workout, I have rediscovered how much of a restorative it is – bringing balance and flexibility to my body after my hard Crossfit workouts.
And the last time I did the level 5, I also did some of the advanced Cadillac work like the walk overs and the other upside down work. But I was very, very happy to find that I was able to do the ‘Flying Squirrel’ – the holy Grail of the Pilates repertoire. There is only 1 video of the flying squirrel on youtube at Romana’s NY studio. Most teachers don’t even know what it is. Once again, my teacher, Cary taught it to us although none of us were able to really do it. Until now. I’ll be posting my own youtube video soon – of the ‘Flying Squirrel’.