In the age of reformer-only Pilates studios, the Pilates landscape is evolving. While these studios have made Pilates machine work accessible and brought creativity to the forefront, the essence of Pilates as a complex system risks fading in the shadow of reformers and megaformers. Most practitioners of Pilates are unaware of the machines outside of the reformer. However, a decade ago you might have said clients didn't know there was more to Pilates than the matwork, so despite the downsides, this is still a sign of progress. The reformer indeed offers a versatile and enjoyable workout, explaining its popularity. But Pilates was designed to be experienced across various machines. This is what defines it as a complex system, distinct from the type of exercise performed on conventional gym equipment. It could even be argued that the "Pilates Body" people speak of shouldn't refer to an aesthetic created by the exercises, but rather the way a body moves as a result of exercising with all the different Pilates machines.
The reason Pilates as a comprehensive system hasn't gone mainstream is likely a combination of the complexity of teaching the full system combined with accessibility and time/space optimization issues that arise from exclusively offering private lessons. Group reformer classes, in contrast, are more affordable for the client and can accommodate more participants, resulting in far greater profitability for the studio owner.
While the appeal of filling a studio with a single machine is clear, it's puzzling why studios continue to limit themselves to reformers. The tower or chair match the versatility of the reformer, yet require less space and investment. But even teachers that have been trained on all the machines are often hesitant to teach group chair or tower classes as the focus on the reformer work, even in comprehensive training programs, leaves teachers feeling less confident with the other machines. In fact, these days most teachers are only being trained on the reformer, so there wouldn't be enough teachers to fill studios offering group chair or tower classes. If this trajectory continues, teaching the whole system could become a lost art.
At Authentic Body Control, we offer a range of classes, including group reformer, group chair, and group mixed-machine sessions. Our aim is to share the entirety of the Pilates system with you and embrace its complexity. New clients accustomed to group reformer workouts may initially hesitate to try chair or mixed machine classes, but once they do, they often integrate them into their exercise routines.
Maybe this phase of reformer-only studios is just a step in the direction of studios hosting multiple versions of each machine for group classes. Or maybe it will even gain so much popularity that it come full circle to where clients arrive at the studio and train on a variety of machines independently, the way you would at a conventional gym (but more complex of course), but also the way they did in the original Pilates gym when Joseph Pilates was running it. That is the future of Pilates I would like to imagine 🥰