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The " Flat-Earth Society "? Who Knew?

Posted by Carole Amend, in Pardigm Shift, Professionalization, Teaching 28 October 2012 · 1,937 views

Flat Earth Society pilates paradigm shift
Something came up in my facebook feed today that was the kind of thing that I wish had not gotten my attention. It’s not *new* that people consider “historic” (or “classical” or “traditional” or “authentic” or…) pilates to be lacking in technical articulation. But, what is *new* is that a term for the people who follow the “historic” method has cropped up: “Members in good standing of the Flat-Earth Society.” My reaction? “Okey-doke. Thanks for sharing.” Hardly emotional…sorry to disappoint the critic. I do understand this critic’s communication frustrations, and this kind of momentary (albeit repeated..?) lapse of respect towards fellow professionals is something we've come to expect, so, no biggie. At least I learned something new here…I didn’t know such a society existed!

Even more interesting, to me, though, when I glanced at the post, was that this kind of disrespect would go right along side a very vague explanation of why it’s not safe to "stretch tendons and ligaments." (My thoughts went directly to my own work and to recent online debates I’ve been reading in the neuroscience and fascia-science realms on the topic of stretching that would move us to re-think the endeavor, but I digress….)

I also empathize with this critic in that I think it’s reasonable not to expect anyone to offer education services for free over the internet, the first reason being that I know how difficult it is to share technical information that is accurate and complete online. However, if the goal would be to share information about how to properly stretch, then, technically speaking, suggesting that *a* specific stretching “technique” is *the* way to go is, well, up for major debate.

I admit that, at first, I felt compelled to come to the defense of the teachers I know who are committed to an integrative perspective on pilates, and I began thinking about how to offer up info about all the other stretching (just for starters) techniques that could be studied to enhance one’s understanding of pilates. Then, a recent discussion came to mind (see PS below). Finally, as I decided to stay focused on my own work, I remembered a discussion I started back in August that might serve as a more appropriate, more succinct way to address my concern and make my point…which is, as always and finally about communication.

Quoted below is my last post (as of today) in the “Dr. Spine” topic, which I began. This was at the end of a lengthy discussion about views on how to better articulate the method, complete with a demonstration of a commitment to overcoming a few rough communication spots, which I always appreciate very much! And, questions regarding the "somatic" point of view (well, at least that's what we're calling it rght now) were posed, which I found quite encouraging.

Check out the entire discussion, if you haven't already. I offer it here just so that those who have seen the vimeo referring to “The Flat-Earth Society” (seriously, will it never get old?...besides being untrue, it's just plain boring, not to mention highly unproductive) might consider another point of view that brings to light a community of teachers committed to evolving the teaching and preserving the practice of Contrology (a term we owe to Joseph H. Pilates) through respectful discussion. That this is no small effort is also echoed in my last blog as well: "Using language from other perspectives will, at best, only border what J.H.Pilates was after." Let's keep talking!

Hi Allan,
Always happy to talk about what we've developed....
Thanks very much for asking the questions...the thing that stands out for me today is to say that writing on this board is a mental exercise.

We are all "mentally conditioned" in some way and it's a great thing to sense and witness the opening of our minds and the minds of others through honest and respectful sharing. It's a wonderful thing to attempt to use words to describe a sensory practice; describing the method is an entirely different process without seeing or feeling the person and body in front of you. However, we all know how helpful this discussion board has been and continues to be, even if it has been difficult at times. I truly believe that articulating what we do is paramount to honoring and preserving practices like those taught at Romana's Pilates and what I learned at Carola Trier's and that's the main reason why I endeavor to keep communicating.

Teacher training programs only began about twenty years ago, and so, pilates is still a very young discipline. I'd liked to see the mental conditioning side of the work, which, at this point in my career, I could not do without, become part of every teacher's training. It has everything to do with communication, and if our work is all about the client, then knowing how to communicate should, at some point in one's training, become very important. For now, what I teach would be considered Continuing Ed for pilates instructors and other movement teachers; while it does center around teaching technical, physically-oriented concepts that help to explain the uniqueness of the work of J. H. Pilates, and while the experiential, practice side of the program would most likely be seen as similar to what is taught at Romana's, it's wouldn't be classified as a "school of Pilates" at this time, although that might come about down the line.

My hope is that discussions like these help to shed light on the different ways that people from different fields view "pilates"--whether seen as good or bad---because it is all helpful in the process of defining "pilates." You are absolutely right when you say that all of us writing on this board love pilates... and that's because we have FELT it, and this is the thing to remember, first and foremost, when the method is faced with scrutiny and criticism and when we wraggle over concepts and terms and boundaries. Clarity is a good thing and it has to start with communication between teachers and instructors of the method.

Thanks to Pilates Connections and thanks again, Allan.
Peace and Cheers,
Carole : )

Here’s to respectful, inclusive discussions that help to enhance practice of the pilates method.
Have a wonderful Sunday all!

PS. I’ll link this to a discussion on Kneeling Thigh Stretch, which I have not had time to comment on until now. And here I share taowave's post about a link to an ACSM paper that mentions types of stretching techniques and more food for thought.

Hi Carole, thanks for the great discussions....not sure what the" flat earth society" is reference to, but as I was feeling isolated in my pilates teaching, it was good to hear your words of encouragement to keep on keeping on!
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Hi Deborah,
Here is the quote from the vimeo (which I was asked to reference here):

"Couple of different aspects of fusion work generically. Any time somebody from a different modality brings their wisdom and overlays it onto Joseph Pilates’ wisdom, it tends to make some people extremely emotional, very defensive in nature, the people who feel that Joseph Pilates’ work, in and of itself, separate from anything else, to the exclusion of all else, is all that people need, are highly offended, and very emotionally so, when people from other modalities overlay their work on ours. I call those people, 'Members in good standing of the Flat-Earth Society.' ” -Rebecca Leone

I completely understand the feeling of isolation because I've suffered it myself until I met you and more teachers like you! Quotes like the one above have caused so much alienation between teachers, which is very unfortunate. I am sure this is very confusing to newcomers to the method. So, I'll offer this:

Here's a quote from Return to Life:
"Study carefully. Do not sacrifice knowledge to speed in building your solid exercise regime on the foundation of Contrology." -Joe Pilates, p.14

I know there are many of us following the work of Joseph Pilates who take this to heart each and every day. The more we study, the more we excel as teachers.

Knowing what I have come to know through committed practice, I can easily dismiss this quote of Rebecca's from her vimeo:
“You will not build enough strength, two hours, three hours a week in order to make your body as supple and as mobile as Joe was able to make his clients because his clients were not captive to the concretized positions stuck at their desks, stuck in their passions…when we get good at something we keep doing it to the exclusion of all else and our bodies no longer have dynamic movement throughout the day like many people used to…in the olden times.”

"Olden times"? Really?

To me, it's all relative, and the concepts at work years ago are still true today.
My passion is to inspire teachers of the method to stay on the path to "complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit" as Joe Pilates encouraged us to do.

Here's a quote from the featured video (as of today) on the Bodies Mind Youtube channel that is something that classical proponents have been saying for years (see also "Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness." video under the Concepts for Excellence playlist):

"It has become a kind of a truism in the study of creativity that you can't be creating anything with less than ten years of technical knowledge immersion in a particular field."
-Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi

Stay cool. Stay calm. Stay centered. Do your pilates.
Works for me!
-Carole : )
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I thought I'd share a convo I had on twitter, which began in response to this blog. I couldn't say it in 140, so I used twitlonger!
Also, here's a link to a post I made on the AASI facebook page.
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