As I was thinking of topics that may be of interest to the classical curious, I thought how some of the past Monday Q’s (my own and other classical colleagues) have been related to the Link System. Not only the Link System within the body, but as it pertains to a layering of the specified skill sets that codify and link the exercises (beginner through advanced levels) demonstrating the cohesive, systematic, intelligent design of the Method. I know the Link System is highly emphasized in classical Pilates instructor education. However, after reading several articles authored by contemporary trained instructors and having attended some contemporary styled workshops in my past; I get the feeling that the Link System may be more of an illusive topic for contemporary trained instructors, and therefore, may be of interest to those wanting more information.
In his book, Return to Life, Joseph Pilates clearly states and reiterates the woven thread of purposeful intent and philosophy throughout the Method for ultimate conditioning, health, and wellbeing. It is really a simplistic philosophy.
Developing uniformity in the body for the intent of the following: enhanced breathing, improved circulation and oxygenation (the internal shower), and spinal and major joint health with healthy range of motion. All of this is for the goal of optimal health and unity of body, mind, and spirit.
When one is informed of what the Method looks like at his fullest, largest expression (Level V) and what the body, the tissue, the vibrancy, and the health looks like in that expression; it allows for reverse linear thought process and a deeper comprehension of the beginner level of exercises, and even further, to the basic fundamental movement skills. Being able to identify this type of conceptual continuity in the Method can be applied in three aspects:
1) Taking a fundamental movement skill in the body and understanding its relational connection to another fundamental movement skill in another area of the body. Furthermore, connecting two of these skill concepts into one simplified thought tailored to the client’s individual needs for the sake of uniform development. This is the Link System.
I want to state here that this looks very different from a piece meal approach to Pilates exercises into biomechanics and stating the goals of exercises as targeting certain muscle groups or stabilizing certain parts. It really goes back to the big circular graphic of uniform development for the sake of improved breathing, enriched blood flow, cellular oxygenation, and spinal and joint health. All of this contributes for the restoration of natural animal MOVEMENT, optimal health at the physiological level, and a refreshed spirit-A RETURN TO LIFE!
*I have listed some examples of Fundamental Movement Skills at the end to reference if needed.
2) Identifying and addressing the Link System in terms of the client’s individual needs/imbalances and carrying the same theme/concept all the way through the progression of exercises in a session, but also, linking session after session together as a purposeful, direct, and clear path to ultimate, whole health for the client.
3) Being able to think both linear directions in terms of the Link System between the exercises and levels: Example:
A. Taking a Level V exercise and breaking it down into its elemental movement skills and understanding how to identify, instill, and teach those in the beginner exercises and to beginner leveled bodies, so it will establish and ingrain new neural connections within the body. Furthermore, over time these profound neural connections will be strengthened becoming more automatic and readily available when multilayered and called upon in a Level V exercise.
B. The vice versa: taking a Level I exercise and being able to see that exercise in more progressed layered versions of itself in higher leveled exercises.
D) Troubleshooting and critical thinking when confronted with a client’s need for modification related to any of the following: limitations due to injury, pathological disease, imbalances (tightness/weakness/limited ROM, etc.). When one understands what fundamental skill sets make up an exercise, then the instructor can think, “Okay, how can I help/modify so this client can still achieve the basic purpose and intention of this exercise for the sake of uniform development, the internal shower, and overall health?” No matter how modified the exercise has to be, can one still envision what it would look like in its most advanced, vibrant expression? Also, would teaching this exercise (for example: Swan) on a different apparatus be more appropriate for the particular client’s success in terms of instilling the skills and connections needed, and then, over time build up to executing its more challenged versions on the differing apparatus? When one starts seeing the connections pervasively throughout the Method as a layered matrix, one understands the Link System and the Pilates Method from a comprehensive perspective.
To teach the Link System is to truly understand the comprehensive classical approach to the Pilates Method on an enlightened and profound level. It means comprehending the big picture and end goal of Pilates according to Joe. It means being aligned with the intention and philosophy Joe had for his work. You are simply “Going More Joe.”
Some Examples of Fundamental Movements (For Reference)
- Pilates Abdominal Scoop
- Pelvic Girdle Movement/Pelvic Girdle Stabilization
- Shoulder Girdle Movement/Shoulder Girdle Stabilization
- Upper Spinal Flexion
- Spinal Extension
- Spinal Rotation
- Lateral Spinal Flexion
About the Author:
Lindy Irwin is a PMA Certified Pilates Teacher and Registered Nurse. She has been teaching classical Pilates for over 15 years. She grew up in Saint Petersburg, FL where she studied classical ballet starting at the age of three. She completed classical comprehensive training programs with Colleen Glenn in 2002 and The Pilates Center Boulder, CO in 2007 and 2013. She is currently a host advisor for The Pilates Center’s teacher training program, and she enjoys guiding and training future instructors.
Lindy has her own studio Authentic Pilates of Austin. Her mission in life is to help people heal and thrive using the powerful movement method of Pilates. Aside from Pilates, her greatest passion in life is mothering her sweet little boy.