22 Dec 2015 When is Pilates Not Pilates?
I attended the Pilates Method Alliance Conference in Denver in November 2015 and was fortunate to find myself in a panel discussion group with a number of experts. The topic was: Pilates as a therapy model.
I listened intently to the discussion on how Pilates teachers can evolve their practice into a therapy model. It got me thinking about what I actually do now every day. I am not a physiotherapist, In that I did not study this profession at university – I do not diagnose medical conditions. And yet, like many in this profession, I work every day on complex and challenging cases of pre or post surgery, hypermobility syndrome, back pain and sporting injuries to name just a few. I talk to surgeons and consultants, I get shown MRIs to look at by my clients and speak ‘medical’ language. My desire to help people overcome limitations about their condition has led me to a rewarding rehabilitation role within the industry. The nature of this work means that I am frequently straying from the ‘traditional’ Pilates repertoire and trying new approaches. I need to be creative in order to ensure the client progresses, heals, regains full range of motion and confidence to move. Sometimes what I do does not even resemble Pilates! But it’s movement! So when people ask what I do, does Pilates Teacher still sum it up? Where does Pilates stop and therapy begin? Or does it not stop – do they blend into each other beautifully?
After that panel discussion, I pondered the role of a therapist – do I perform therapy that is movement therapy? So does that make me a movement therapist? And then I decided, does it matter what we are called or what title is assigned to us. For me, my priority is getting people out of pain, getting back to doing the things they love or want to achieve. If I put all my techniques in a mixing bowl, stir it up and produce a method that helps the person standing in front of me, that’s it. So Pilates, Therapist, Scientist, Curious Observer – I will be all of those things.The fact is – I’m not the important one – the client is. If it works, you can call it whatever you want.
Our goal is to allow people to explore their movement potential – Pilates is a safe and effective way to do this. Because of this, it lends itself to evolve easily into a therapy model. But by its very nature, a therapy model will have to examine so much more than exercise per se. It cannot stay as a pure physical execution of exercise. And that’s when it becomes really exciting. What are people’s thoughts, feelings, fears, beliefs that are causing them to move that way or experience such pain? How can I, as a teacher or therapist, help them change those beliefs?
This is when Pilates is no longer Pilates. I’m not sure what it is called. The fact that this was a topic at the conference of leading experts in the Pilates and physiotherapy arena goes to show it’s an ongoing journey of evolution of Pilates. I am grateful to be a part of it.