When Your Pilates House is Falling Apart...and You Don't Even Know It!
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
Foundational assumptions are the make or break of your Pilates practice. Be sure your house is built on solid ground.
“Posture is hugely important”...except that it isn’t. “Neutral spine protects the back”...except that it doesn’t. “Flexion with rotation is dangerous and will herniate a disc”...except that humans use this combination 9,874 times every single day. “Pilates is about strengthening ‘the core’”...except that it’s actually about USING “the core”. “Stability is key”...except that we are in a constant state of motion. “Proper alignment must always be prioritised”...except no two bodies will align the same, so what is “proper” anyway?
In any modality, foundational assumptions are crucial. These are the basic building blocks of progression. Sir Isaac Newton famously said “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” He was able to make his discoveries, because he could assume the accuracy of discoveries that came before him.
But what happens when we don’t understand the foundation, or when there is a flaw in that information? That’s when the “assumption” part of this system becomes a problem. If no one is questioning the accuracy of the foundation, if no one is thinking about it, if we’re all just assuming it’s right, what kind of houses are we building?
When we don’t understand the fundamentals of what we’re doing, we won’t be able to build on them with any kind of accuracy or flare. Newton could stand on his predecessors’ shoulders because he knew of their work. He understood the discoveries they had made, and he could expand upon them.
In my career I am constantly meeting Pilates teachers with no understanding of who has come before them or what assumptions they are making as a result. Recently I heard a teacher tell her class she’d “like to meet the person responsible” for inventing the Magic Circle. Seriously? If she doesn’t know that Joseph Pilates, the man whose name she uses everyday, invented the device she’s holding, how am I supposed to believe that she knows how to use it? Or why it was invented? Or it’s real purpose?
Then there’s the other problem. What happens to all of our houses when the basic foundations we are assuming, are wrong? Many of us are unwilling to rebuild the house. I get it, that’s a big job, but what’s the alternative? Look at all the cues that contradict themselves. “Pull your abs in to support your back.” “Draw your ribs toward your hips for your Swan.” “Stretch over to the right without shortening one side.” “Use your glutes to lift your legs for your 100.” “Roll up to Teaser without using your quads.” “Draw your abdominals in and up, then curl.”
If you don’t see the contradictions in the above sentences, maybe it’s time to take a look at your foundational assumptions. That’s not an easy thing to do. When someone hands you new information, do you ever feel yourself thinking, “Ha! That’s wrong!”? Do you ever ask yourself why you thought that? This new information contradicted your own foundational assumptions. That doesn’t mean the new information was wrong (it may have been!), but that uncomfortable feeling we get, that resistance to learning, comes from the terrifying discovery that a key piece of our understanding may not be what we thought it was. Embracing that sickening feeling is the beginning of something wonderful…the ability to learn or at least, expand our understanding of what we already know. When we can open our minds to new ideas, the world opens up to us. And that is when we grow, as students, as teachers, as people.
I’ll be looking deeper into the misleading foundational assumptions common in the Pilates community in the coming weeks. I hope you’ll join me, if you can get past that queasy feeling! 😝