by Cathleen Leszczynski
One of the greatest things about the Pilates Method is its versatility and variability. Having arisen as a rehabilitative form of exercise, Joseph Pilates created a system of movement that lends itself to modifications, progressions, and variations that allow the Instructor to teach Pilates to any and every individual body out there. Age, height, gender, weight, fitness level, and so on are merely defining factors of a session’s format for the day, but never a hinderance or boundary.
Instructors are specially trained to teach to the body (or in some cases, multiple bodies) in front of them in order to develop an appropriate class or lesson. Every single exercise has some variety of “building blocks,” modifications, advancements, or other variation that can make it more accessible to different clients. Even the equipment itself can be changed in many instances to suit the client. The Reformer can be put into different gears to accommodate a range of heights; on the Cadillac, different weight springs can be used depending on the client’s strengths or goals for the session; props such as balls, weights, or Power Circles can be a huge help in teaching exercises, adding assistance, or bumping up the challenge. Even with injuries or specific limitations, there are ways to strengthen the body and ultimately improve the injury or limitation at hand. Instructors will be informed upfront of any specific limitations for each client so that they are well aware and can shape the session/class in the clients’ favor.
I have already had the privilege of teaching all sorts of bodies—teenagers, older individuals, women, men, injured, athletic, sedentary, or those facing some kind of limitation. It is safe to say that no two bodies are the same and that every session/class is a learning experience for both the Clients and Instructor. The key is to work together on finding what works best in each body. A modification that works for one client may be of no help to another, while a variation may be a great challenge for one person but be inaccessible to another. With an open communication between Client and Instructor, there will be better progress in the Client’s body, and the Instructor has a chance to learn as well.
It truly is amazing how Pilates can become a part of anyone’s life. Helping other people learn about themselves and transform their mind and body is an aspect of the Method that many Instructors are drawn to from the beginning. The diversity of the movement system is suitable for the diversity of bodies out in the world. There are so many ways to assist, teach, and challenge every single person. No body is the same, but Pilates will have a similar (awesome) affect on every body if individuals work to their personal ideal and push limits each time.