I’ve been teaching exercise & Pilates for almost 25 years and throughout this time I’m seen multiple fitness trends come and go. Quick fixes & transformational promises have always been popular & have largely created the Wellness & fitness industry know & recognise.

Of course, Pilates itself would not have become the globally known term it is today had firstly it not worked as a Method and secondly had it not been picked up by various high-profile individuals & trainers bringing it to the public domain. Joseph Pilates knew very well the art of PR & just what a good picture was worth, he used it to his advantage long before Instagram made everyone an expert in everything.

Life is risky but do you really want an Injury?

When I embarked on a career as a Pilates teacher, I believed my role was to improve the health & wellbeing of my clients, believing I was duty bound to ensure what I taught was safe, effective and with the risk of injury kept minimal. And so, as I hear of increasingly more people becoming injured in Pilates classes, equipment & Mat I am left profoundly frustrated & increasingly worried for the public at large.

When I trained over 23 years ago the Pilates Method was frequently regarded by many as a ‘safe’ low impact form of exercise, something offered by doctors & physios to people who couldn’t or didn’t want to go to the gym. At least in the UK most people had no idea (and often still don’t) that the Method included a wide variety of apparatus and dedicated Pilates Studios were few and far between. Mat classes frequently attracted people with chronic back & neck pain, they’d been told Pilates would help often because GP’s & physios.

Pilates is so boring & too gentle.

These were the descriptions I heard most often by people who didn’t do it and in truth it often was, frequently Pilates Mat classes  had been so stripped of the original exercises or taught so fast it was an exercise in survival. All would be well the Industry promised when we found the illusive ‘core’. Spoiler alert the middle of you is very much fluid & full of organs that slide & glide & truly, how much flexibility does your spine really have when its trussed up in a ‘corset’ even one of your own imaginary making.

Once the fitness industry started to include classes on their schedules we saw the world of Pilates change, fitness instructors including myself were suddenly teaching away from church halls (I still teach in a church hall fyi). The Pilates fitness brand birthed classes claiming to combine the very best of Pilates & Yoga & hybrids were popular, well, why stick to tried and tested success when you have a charismatic teacher & rebrand that can get rid of the boring bits like the 100’s & Savasana.

All Reformers are not the same.

As the Pilates brand matured so the reinvention went further & over the last decade, we have seen the favourite child emerge into Reformer (only) Pilates Studios. To be clear & to avoid confusion not an equipped Pilates Studio offering classes on Reformers but dedicated Reformer only spaces jammed full of often low quality, poorly maintained equipment, with enthusiastic but often under qualified Instructors with loud music, and a price tag worthy of guaranteed results including all to common injury litigation when the petulant Reformer decides to throw it’s enthusiastic participant over the foot bar.

Now if you know me you know I devote much of my time making sure my clients can continue to participate in a wide range of crazy activities, whatever they love to do I use the Pilates Method to maintain their strength & flexibility to do it. But what I am seeing, alongside many of the Physios & body workers I work alongside is alarming to say the least. Too often clients are not understanding how to best use the reformer to support their workout but also how to prevent injuries. I am seeing too often injuries when clients have fallen off, torn shoulder ligaments, and  torn hip joints. Some will recover with expert intervention; many will require surgery & a lot of potential ongoing suffering.

But I love my Reformer class I hear you say.

And that, is of course wonderful. But if, as I have heard people say ‘I love it, I just avoid x teacher because I don’t feel safe’ (just how qualified are the instructors hired?) or ‘It was my fault I fell off, I wasn’t doing it well enough’ (never true btw) then I implore you to seek the Studios & teachers of the Method who have a love of it, are qualified but more importantly hold a profound respect for it and their clients. Any studio worth its weight should have full transparency in terms of teacher’s qualifications. Insurance, first aiders & a routine explained to you for the Reformer or Mat set up, i.e. you should expect to find and leave it the same every time you begin & finish. If an injury happens during class, the teacher should stop the class & all injuries should be reported & documented, why, because our clients are our priority.

Your body is not a machine.

This is a fact not an opinion. It’s a collection of beautiful cells all weaving together to create you, not a series of interchangeable parts built like the Studio equipment. Whatever your reasons for going to any Pilates class, to strengthen, tone, build flexibility, manage stress or just to have fun. Never sacrifice your health for a temporary result because in all likelihood the industry puppeteers running the current trends will have moved on to newer, shinier reinventions by the time you realise somethings not right & if you’ve spent all your wages on doing nothing but bracing for impact albeit to some cool tunes then prepare to spend the same amount of money & time trying to repair the possible long-term consequences of trying not to fall of the Reformer in class.

Don’t confuse physical effort with results. Because as it turns out 1 spring is often the hardest spring to master but that spring takes concentration, time, co ordination & practice not just a 140bpm.

Keep working out, working in & enjoy the journey.



Seraphina Pilates

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