Different Types of Fusion Pilates

Two woman practicing Pilates on balls

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Pilates on an exercise ball. Pilates with fitness bands. Pilates with yoga. Pilates with tango dancing. Pilates in the pool. The list of Pilates practices fused with other activities goes on. But are we really still talking about Pilates when it's presented mostly in the context of a different exercise system? A large part of the Pilates community would say no, and a large part would say yes.

Pilates' Roots

Joseph Pilates developed a huge repertoire of exercises based on very specific movement principles. His exercises are done on an exercise mat or with one of the many pieces of equipment that he invented, such as the magic circle, Pilates chair, and reformer. That's close to the end of the story for many traditionalists in the Pilates world.

However, as the Pilates method has influenced exercise science and vice versa, many new approaches and equipment types have found their way into Pilates training.

When Does Fusion Pilates Cease to Be Pilates?

The critical question then becomes: How far away from traditional Pilates is too far away? If you take a class or buy a video that claims to be a fusion of Pilates and something else, say Pilates and ballroom dancing, but there are only two traditional Pilates exercises in the whole thing, is it still Pilates? What if they add core-strengthening work? If you do a Pilates on the ball class and the instructor has no more than a one-day "Pilates on the ball" certification from one of the many self-appointed certification businesses, are you going to get the benefits associated with doing Pilates correctly?

While most Pilates-based instruction is excellent, some classes that combine Pilates with other equipment and traditions are so derivative that there is no real Pilates left in them, other than as a name or a marketing tool.

Tips for Finding Quality Fusion Pilates

So how do you know if you are getting a Pilates fusion experience that is giving you enough Pilates to make it worthwhile, especially if there is no traditional Pilates being taught? The 5 tips below will help you be a discerning client:

  1. The best solution is to know your Pilates. Take some Pilates classes, equipment or mat, with a fully certified Pilates instructor. Then move on to combining Pilates with other activities. At least you will have a feeling for the basics of Pilates movement, and you will be able to see those principles reflected in your fusion instructor—or not.
  2. Find out how much Pilates instruction your Pilates fusion teacher actually has. Don't settle for a one-day workshop. If your instructor is combining Pilates with something else, yoga or ballet, for example, they should be well trained in both.
  3. Look for the basics of Pilates-inspired instruction, such as an emphasis on the abdominals being pulled in supporting the core; length and alignment; exercise modifications; core stability including abs, shoulders, and pelvis; integrated breathing; and a sense of the Pilates principles.
  4. Ask yourself how you feel after a class. Are you getting the benefits that you associate with Pilates training? Do your limbs feel longer and do you feel taller? Are you getting strength without strain? Is your posture better, and is your breathing easy and full? Do you feel more flexible?
  5. Prepare yourself by reading more about Pilates exercise instructions to become a more discriminating practitioner.

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.