What is all this crazy kit with its springs, carriages, bars and fuzzy attachments?! It is the apparatus of pilates and includes the Cadillac, Reformer, Chair, Ladder Barrel, Spine Corrector and Arc Barrel. Joseph Pilates was a prolific inventor and his creations also included the Foot Corrector, Toe Corrector and Pedi-Pole. There will be yet more pieces of equipment I have yet to discover.
From the First World War when he was interned at Lancaster Castle and on The Isle of Man and throughout his years in his New York studio to his death in 1967, Joseph Pilates was, by all accounts, thinking about ways in which to MOVE. His system of Contrology was unsurpassed in its effectiveness at correcting posture and strengthening our whole bodies.
It took me over ten years from my first mat course to my cadillac training with reformer, chair and barrels in between to understand and appreciate the importance of the pilates repertoire in its entirety. With hindsight, for the good of my pilates teaching I perhaps should have chosen a course in which all of the apparatus were introduced alongside each other, rather than one after the next. For my bank balance however, taking the former approach was necessary.
Quality pilates education is not only eye-wateringly expensive it always requires a lengthy commute (from Yorkshire to Toronto for my Chair Course!), accommodation and unpaid time away from my regular classes. The apparatus to equip my studio, some of which is now produced in the UK, at the time had to be shipped from Canada. It’s been a long and pricey journey but 100% worth it for the bigger picture I can now see with clarity and for a more meaningful future in teaching pilates.
In the UK our teacher training tends to start with a mat course. This is by far the most accessible route to becoming a pilates teacher and it enables us to set up our classes immediately with just a bunch of mats. Then, if you have the inclination, time and you’ve taught approximately one million pilates classes in cold Yorkshire village halls in order to afford it, you might go on to complete reformer training. This pattern continued for me for several years and each time a new piece of apparatus was added I grew more and more hooked with the pilates method, its potential and how really great fun it was!
The apparatus allows us to move in ways we haven’t moved since we were in the school playground. It allows us to flex, extend, rotate and sidebend with a remarkable level of feedback and support in order to target just the right muscles.
When someone comes to my studio for the first time I invariably introduce them to the cadillac first to assess their body awareness as they discover how to move through their spine and stabilise their scapula. With strong clients, I will often finish on the chair to end on a high as they demonstrate their strength in tricep dips and push ups. If a client looks like they need a release from the stresses of work/kids/life I’ll use the spine corrector for side bends and extension. And to get sweaty we’ll do a whole body reformer workout.
I find the apparatus exercises to be challenging yet achievable, playful and enjoyable yet able to improve your strength and change your body and the way you think about it. I LOVE the apparatus of pilates and all it has to offer for everybody’s body.