With all the benefits I have experienced from doing Classical Pilates, the main question I have is, “Why isn’t everyone doing Classical Pilates?”
While there has recently been a slight rise in the popularity of the classical work, it still does not compare to the interest in contemporary Pilates or most other forms of fitness out there.
What about the classical method makes it less attractive? How can we change that?
My primary mission has been to spread the word on Classical Pilates and invite more people into this method for the past couple of years. Especially those that may previously have felt in some way that this space was not meant for them. Here are a few thoughts on bringing more people to the classical Pilates party.
Visuals around a subject often catch our attention first and make us want to learn more if we can in some way relate to what we see.
Classical Pilates imagery is, quite frankly, problematic. I mean errbody white! Preferably female, with very little body fat and some experience as a dancer. At least, that is what Google, magazines, and most Classical Pilates organizations with social media pages tell us. True, nowadays, we occasionally see a brown/larger-bodied blip here or there, but most Classical Pilates spaces are still very pale and skinny. In addition, there is an unhealthy obsession in the Classical Pilates community with vintage Pilates images while being seemingly oblivious to how exclusive those images are. I am not saying let’s throw away history but worshiping how amazing the pale past was, makes it harder for a colorful future to exist.
When people don’t see themselves represented in a space, it can often send the message that this space is not for them. Or, they are not wanted here. One of the easiest ways to draw people to Classical Pilates is to change how it looks. Show the people that they too are a Classical Pilates body by including a variety of bodies in the imagery representing this method.
Finally, can we make classical Pilates look like fun again? I get it. We are doing concentration, and concentration is serious! But, don’t we feel great after all that concentration? Where are the visuals of how happy and good classical Pilates can make us feel? If people understood how great this method could leave you feeling, I can guarantee more would be trying it out.
For a person to understand why they need to do something, they must first understand what that thing is. Most people (including many Pilates instructors) don’t really know what Classical Pilates is. The select few who do, seem to guard what they know like a carefully kept secret. When they share, it can often sound like a foreign language.
It’s almost as if, in an effort to preserve the classical method, we are slowly killing the method. It’s important that Classical Pilates is communicated in a way that people can actually understand. If we want there to be a next generation of Classical Pilates practitioners or create a more inviting community, it may mean finding a new way to communicate our message. For example, if a member of Gen Z were to come across the information you are sharing on Classical Pilates, would they be attracted to this method? Whether we like it or not, they are the future. It does not mean we have to change the message; just it’s delivery. How many of us are making a conscious effort to communicate with those that may not speak our current Pilates language in a language that makes sense to them?
Make it accessible/affordable
I believe that once people feel how amazing Pilates is, they will find ways to afford/access more of it. For 10 years I walked past the Pilates studio at work and did not enquire about sessions. I did not want to be embarrassed by having to explain that I may not be able to afford them. In my mind Pilates=Expensive and out of my reach.
There is something that is broken about the Pilates pricing model, if it prices most people out while at the same time leaving many Pilates teachers on a struggling salary. It discourages people on a budget (which is most people) from practicing Pilates and requires Pilates teachers to settle for less in their careers or only become teachers if they have a secondary access to income. It’s discouraging to both potential practitioners and those considering careers that focus on sharing this method.
I encourage the classical community to invite more people in by providing more accessible and affordable entry options and making them available to the average person. Consider a monthly pay what you can class, a free youtube video, or sharing on social media. All of these are great ways to bring more people into this space. They are also great ways to gain exposure. In the long run, more people knowing about and doing classical Pilates can only mean more people eventually buying into Pilates.