Mat Pilates VS. Equipment Pilates
The Pilates system is named after the inventor of the Pilates worldview, Joseph Pilates (1880-1967). This worldview sees all of the body’s parts, components, and actions as interconnected, and as such, it is a holistic approach. The holistic nature of the system implies that all of the alternative methods for practicing Pilates should be considered important. In other words, both equipment Pilates and mat (or “floor”) Pilates are equally important, and should be practiced frequently side by side.
Over the years of the method’s development, many different branches were formed. Some champion a very clear distinction between mat (or floor) work and equipment work.
The differentiation between these two types of exercise resulted mainly from a desire on the part of large fitness clubs to add the word “Pilates” to their advertisements in order to attract customers. Though they used the name, they were unwilling to invest in the purchase of expensive Pilates equipment. They thus promoted the term “mat Pilates” as a valid independent system, convincing the public that it is sufficient on its own.
The terms mat Pilates and equipment Pilates slowly grew to represent two Pilates branches that are opposed to each other, and today one can find both those claiming that mat Pilates alone is enough, and those claiming that equipment Pilates alone is enough.
Another aspect of the Pilates method’s holistic nature is the broad and extremely detailed scale of resistance and load levels used in Pilates. There are those who need assistance, and those who need a challenge. Some need to create the assistance and/or challenge independently without any external equipment, and some need to move without assistance and/or without challenge.
Pilates equipment is versatile and multipurpose. With imagination and creativity, it can be used for an endless variety of techniques, and one can always find new ways of using it for assistance or challenge in exercise. Some of the Pilates equipment can be used for mat work, meaning with no external resistance other than gravity, simply by using the mat to lie on when using that equipment.
Movement using Pilates equipment is performed against the force of springs, which essentially imitate the type of movement caused by muscles. Muscles work like springs. A stretched muscle strives to relax, as does a contracted muscle. In moving with Pilates equipment, therefore, the muscles find a partner with similar elasticity, response, and manner of operation.
Pilates equipment will not help you orient your body. In order to achieve proper positioning on Pilates equipment, you must position and stabilize your body independently. The apparatuses are not built like the gym machines that schematically and/or statistically create a framework within which the body must position itself without any possibility of changing position. With Pilates, people aren’t statistical data (see the article: “If You Can Correspond with Bach, You Can Correspond with Pilates”), and each person will find his or her own correct posture on the equipment, which should be maintained during the course of the exercise. The result of this is the strengthening of proper posture while challenging the person, making it difficult to maintain that posture – which will make it easier to maintain good posture in everyday situations. Even when the equipment is used for support, the goal (at least the theoretical goal) is to eventually manage to perform the same task without the equipment – meaning, for our purposes, with just a mat.
Thus, the most genuine and effective Pilates training is combined mat-equipment training.
They can be separated on a short-term basis, using only equipment for one class, or only a mat, or only one specific apparatus. But in the long term, one should be employing all the methods. In any case, even during a class we need to be sensitive to individual needs, and to be open to transitions between equipment, mat, and apparatuses.
For our purposes, we can say that the mat is also an apparatus – like gravity, like the walls, like the air. And who would oppose the statement that the body itself is in fact THE ultimate apparatus?
Body Culture is a Pilates studio operating in the Herzliya Pituach