The Fun is in the Fancy Transitions.
The original teacher training that I took to become a Pilates teacher did not involve being responsible for learning the original order of the Mat and Reformer exercises. There were a few lists of different orders in the back of my Reformer manual, but I didn't pay much attention to them and don't recall my teachers talking about it or mentioning it very much if at all. We spent the time at weekend training days learning the exercises. There was a loose structure that we were to use for designing safe and effective workouts. At the time, I was thinking, "This Pilates thing is very expensive, so I'll just learn how to do it and then work myself out at home." I had purchased a used Reformer for $1,000.00 for my basement and began teaching people on it. The thing I remember most is that something wasn't quite right. I began searching for answers online and started taking semiprivate sessions with one of my teacher trainers on a regular basis. Paying for semiprivate sessions was doable for me at this time although in the past, I could not fathom paying that much for a workout. As a Personal Trainer prior to that, I prided myself on not spending any money on my business with no overhead whatsoever and loved using nature as a physical fitness center. That was until my curiosity kicked in. It's all in your perspective, I guess.
My Pilates teachers were very creative and quick on their feet after teaching for many years. I can remember feeling overwhelmed by the idea of designing workouts and instructing clients while also having to watch there bodies for alignment issues that I was to then correct. A few months into this, one of my savvy clients showed me a library book that she had checked out. It was called, The Pilates Body, by Brooke Siler. She told me that in the book, the author talks about the Pilates workout being one long exercise, not a list of separate exercises that were put together by the teacher. This was an interesting concept to me. I stumbled onto a website called, www.pilatesology.com. I had already been a member of Pilates Anytime and it was great. There was something I liked about Pilatesology, but I wasn't sure what it was. After watching and doing a few of the classes, I realized every teacher, regardless of where in the world they were being filmed, was doing or guiding their students to do the same workout depending on the level of the class. I learned that this was something called "The Classical Order".
A lot of emphasis was being placed on how to transition from one exercise to the next. I started visiting other studios around town and at one of the studios I visited, the owner was nice enough to pair me with one of her apprentices since I still couldn't imagine spending the money on a private lesson. Working with the apprentice was something I could afford and gave me the opportunity to learn the classical order. While learning the different orders based on my students' level was challenging for my memory at first, I was eventually able to "get it". Regarding my own workouts, I felt empowered to know what I was supposed to do next without the teacher instructing every little movement. I could move on my reformer without watching a video or having a teacher because I had learned the order.
The design of the workouts, as Joe Pilates designed them, seemed like moving art to me. You could compare it to a specific choreography for a dance. That said, I wasn't a dancer. I had taken dance throughout my childhood into my teen years, but hadn't been immersed, and I wasn't good at learning steps fast. As an adult, I had taken Zumba classes and memorizing the steps seemed impossible to me. There was no way I was going to teach that!!! The Pilates orders are different in that, while it is a lot to learn, once you do it's like riding a bike. You know it and you are able to retain it. It is something that must be practiced diligently in the beginning, but after some time, it generally stays in your long term memory bank. If something seems too complicated and you get frustrated, you can just skip it for the moment or maybe forever. Save it for a day when you feel more patient with yourself...or don't. It is a system. If I can learn this, anyone can!!
After gaining some level of understanding of the order, your mind is free to look at the details of how the body is moving. There is still a lot to think about, but it forces the practitioner and teacher to stay present in the moment through concentration. That said, eventually you no longer have to be so serious and striving. There is actually room for a few laughs, believe it or not!! Just ask my clients.
This ability to stay present is a critical aspect to virtually every religion and spiritual practice in the human experience of which I've been exposed. It is a basic yet difficult premise in today's culture, but it is how we gain serenity and peace. There is no way to get around it.
Even if you've tried the classical order and didn't like it, you may understand that there needs to be some organization with regards to planning your classes, some principles to be followed. I find that in whatever teaching environment I'm in, it helps for me to understand the classical order as well as a more basic yet balanced structure for creating a movement experience. The longer I study both approaches regarding Pilates practice design, the more I see things they have in common. If you've never learned the classical order, I would encourage you to learn it so that you can experience the benefits or at least know what rules you are breaking. In addition, I have begun breaking it into small chunks in some short videos I am creating on IGTV, so be on the lookout for those. Call or text me at 678-429-1030 so that we can discuss how to make it affordable and doable for you to learn this beautiful practice of Pilates.