What is Classical Pilates?

The simplest definition of Classical Pilates is: Pilates that adheres to the work of Joseph Pilates. This entails maintaining the original names of the exercises, their proper order and sequencing, when and how to introduce exercises to clients, and the integrity of the movements.

Lineage is also an important factor. A person cannot just find the order online, memorize it, and immediately consider themselves a classical Pilates instructor or practitioner. It’s not only about the nomenclature or repertoire, it’s about how to apply it and knowing the Method inside and out. One needs to take lessons from a classical instructor to learn the methodology in theory and in their body. It is for these reasons that all classical Pilates certification programs require a 600-hour minimum apprenticeship.

Joseph Pilates had a handful of students that went on to become teachers and are known as “The Elders”. Some Elders studied with Joe for a few months, left NYC, and developed their own take on his work. While in contrast a select few spent years, even decades, working and studying with Joe. As a result not all lineages from the Elders are classical.

It is my opinion, based on years of personal observation and research, that the Romana Kryzanowska lineage is the most accurate. Therefore it is my preference to take lessons from 2nd generation instructors certified by Romana’s Pilates that apprenticed in NYC at The Pilates Studio when Romana and Bob Liekens were still there.

Ethan Carter is a classical Pilates instructor and personal trainer with more than 15 years of professional experience and nearly 3 decades of athletic, sport-specific training. Ethan holds certifications by National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), Athletic and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) and Power Pilates.

Ethan has worked for notable fitness companies in New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego. He caters to both private clients and group fitness classes including Pilates mat and reformer classes, indoor cycling, BOSU, TRX, and various conditioning formats.

Ethan found Pilates in 2005. Although he was a successful NYC-based group fitness instructor who taught more than 15 spin classes per week and several strength training classes, he was suffering from a lack of flexibility and range of motion – a common complaint for athletes. At the suggestion of a girlfriend, he attended a few yoga classes but never connected to the vibe.

On a whim, he took a Pilates mat class and immediately clicked with the format. While yoga was based on a community-style class filled with spiritual mantras, chanting, and holding poses for long stretches of time, Pilates was more straightforward, yet incorporated a playfulness of the movements. Ethan was not only sold on the enjoyment of this type of movement, but how easily Pilates could be incorporated – and support – his personal training and group exercise classes.

Ethan began a 600-hour, 6-month, comprehensive program and apprenticeship with Power Pilates, a Romana-based program. Within 2 months of program participation, coupled with 4 Pilates sessions each week Ethan felt a difference. He experienced improved form and efficiency of breath in his triathlon training, increased flexibility, and had eliminated intermittent acute low back pain from sciatica and an L4/L5 compression – an injury that plagued him for years while working as a web developer. Since finishing this program in 2006, Ethan has eliminated his back pain and has not experienced a flare-up.

Ethan is a believer in the power of Pilates to strengthen and heal the body and has helped his clients achieve increased flexibility and range of motion, improved posture and body awareness, as well as enhanced overall body strength and conditioning. He teaches in both high-end gyms and boutique studios. Since completing his initial 600-hour Pilates certification, Ethan has continued to learn in the Romana-based style with notable second-generation instructors such as Bob Liekens, Susan Moran, Junghee Won, and Juan Estrada. He has taught at private studios and held various leadership positions at Frog Fitness, The Bay Club of Carmel Valley, and the world-renowned health spa Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.

Benefits to Classical Pilates:

There are myriad benefits to taking classical Pilates. Below are just some examples of what I experienced within 2-3 months of regular lessons. What sets classical Pilates apart from contemporary Pilates is the repetition and repertoire that enable the client to become very familiar with the work.

If one wants to excel at anything one must practice, practice, practice! Perhaps as a child you had piano lessons and remember working on your scales every week. Or maybe you took up golf as an adult. How many times did you go to the driving range to hit buckets of balls? Another example is professional football players running the same plays over and over again during practice season so on game day their reaction times are instant and essentially automatic. There is a theory that the body needs to do something 10,000 times before it’s committed to the brain and muscle memory.

With classical Pilates there is a clear progression of exercises that is systematic. This enables a client and/or practitioner to advance and more importantly retain the information in their mind and body so their workouts become more efficient and challenging. The same exercise learned on day 1 will be infinitely harder on day 20 which is very different from other forms of fitness and exercise.


Build a stronger core, activate stabilizers, and create uniformity.


Develop more range of motion, feel and move better.


Improve your image and self-confidence. Avoid health complications.


Benefit neuromuscular coordination and muscle isolation. A must for aging.

Prevent Injury

Core stabilization, flexibility, proper muscle activation and sequencing aid in injury prevention.

Reduce Pain

If you have injuries, suffer from chronic pain, are rehabilitating from surgery, Pilates will help you gain strength safely.

Gain Body Awareness

Focused, centered, detailed work raises concentration and body awareness. Sessions=practice. Real life=applied.

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