Pilates on the Cutting Edge

by Rosalind Gray Davis on Mar 27, 2014

Pilates has changed,” says Nora St. John, MS, education program director for Balanced Body®. Today, she explains, many Pilates teachers are well educated in biomechanics. “An understanding of both anatomy and the mind-body connection makes you a better teacher and certainly a better problem solver.

“In the best situation, Pilates is taught with the idea of, ‘Who is the client in front of me? What are his or her goals? How can I use this environment to help the client achieve those goals?’ I think this is a good contemporary view of Pilates.”

How are top Pilates educators respecting Pilates principles while allowing the repertoire to evolve in response to scientific findings and new equipment? Learn how present-day Pilates is blending successfully with other modalities, and discover the latest programs that are making that possible.

Support for Change

Sharing St. John’s sentiments about the importance of exercise science and conscious mind-body movement in an evolving Pilates world are Tom McCook, co-owner and director of Center of Balance in Mountain View, California, and a master instructor of Pilates and CoreAlign® for Balanced Body®, and PJ O’Clair, owner of clubXcel and Northeast Pilates, a STOTT PILATES® Licensed Training Center in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts.

“Understanding how the body and the nervous system are designed to move gives us the ability to teach our clients how to move better and with less strain and less wear and tear,” says McCook.

“The body is not designed for performance; it’s designed for survival. The joints need to be mobilized before doing anything muscularly difficult. This allows a person to feel safe before performing a movement. We need to show our clients how to let go of excess tension and how to improve their posture and their body mechanics.”

“STOTT PILATES changed the order [of the Pilates repertoire] quite a few years ago because we felt that it was imbalanced,” says O’Clair, who clearly sees science informing the consciousness of the contemporary Pilates community. “Joseph Pilates was a brilliant man, but [based on] current exercise science, we believe [his original sequence included] too much flexion. People are already spending a great deal of time in flexion in their daily lives,” she says.

McCook agrees, pointing to the many hours clients spend sitting, driving a car or working on computers every day. “This makes you question whether or not it would be a good idea to start your workout with a flexion exercise. You are just doing more of the same thing. [We need] to look at the body and find the most functional movement for the person.”

Innovative Programs and Equipment

Over the years, creative instructors have found novel ways to combine Pilates with other exercise modalities. Pilates and yoga have blended well, for example, and less obvious hybrids—like Pilates and indoor cycling—have also enjoyed success. But new programs and equipment are enabling Pilates educators to refine their approach, expand their reach and fill in arguable gaps in the classical repertoire. Among today’s available resources are CoreAlign, ZEN•GA™ and barre workouts.


The CoreAlign method, according to McCook, is designed to improve functional movement patterns, posture and balance, and to provide a full-body workout. The equipment consists of two tracks and carts that move independently with smooth resistance (assistance) created by six elastic resistance tube assemblies on each cart. Movement is possible in one or both directions. A ladder (wall-mounted or free-standing) is used in most of the exercises.

For more information, please see “Pilates Blending” in the online IDEA Library or in the print edition of October 2013 IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.



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About the Author

Rosalind Gray Davis

Rosalind Gray Davis IDEA Author/Presenter

Rosalind Gray Davis is a dynamic and creative author and highly regarded health, fitness and wellness industry expert, having published numerous articles in well known national periodicals. She penned the critically acclaimed book Puccini & The Girl, along with musicologlist Annie J. Randall. It is the first book to explore Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini’s most unique work, La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West), to which World famous Musicologist Philip Gossett said, “the book will forever change how we think abut Puccini’s American opera.” The director of the Met Opera Archives says, “this brilliantly researched volume will help Fanciulla find its rightful place in the operatic repertory.” As a sought after Communications Consultant, Ms. Gray Davis has provided dynamic marketing, public relations consulting, and writing expertise for numerous high profile international, national, and local companies that include McDonald’s, IDEA Health & Fitness Association, DavisElen Advertising, Chiat/Day Advertising, McGraw-Hill School Systems, Shea/Campbell, Inc., and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s volunteer department. In this role, she has been credited with developing “cause marketing” programs prior to their mainstream adoption by companies as part of their regular marketing strategies. She has served as President and Founding Partner of Gelman & Gray Communications, Incorporated, and Executive Vice President and Founder of Bob Thomas & Associates, Incorporated. Her early career history includes work as a Guest Lecturer at the University of Southern California, Senior News Writer and Producer at KCBS Television, Associate Professor of Upper Division Broadcast Journalism at California State University, and Assistant to the Managing Editor at Psychology Today Magazine. Ms. Gray Davis’ received her Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary American History and Journalism and worked toward a Master’s Degree in American History at the University of California at Los Angeles. She is a Certified Pilates Instructor, and has expanded her well-rounded knowledge of health and wellness through participation in numerous classes, seminars, and workshops in the fitness field. Her broad based expertise has resulted in her selection to several prestigious community and industry based leadership roles, including Contributing Editor of IDEA Pilates Today, IDEA Heath & Fitness Association, board member and selected author for the Carmel Author’s Table and Board of Directors for the Carmel Bach Festival.