A Comparison of Breathe Education and STOTT PILATES Certification

The World’s #1 Online Comprehensive Pilates Program


STOTT PILATES is one method of Pilates that was developed more than 30 years ago to focus on individual muscles, unlike the original approach created by Joseph Pilates which was a whole-body form of exercise that specifically avoided focus on individual muscles. 

To understand the difference between STOTT PILATES and the more current science-based method (known as Contrology 2.0) that Breathe Education teaches, it’s necessary to understand the history of Pilates. So let’s cover that whole history, from STOTT to finish.

A Brief History of Pilates

Pilates was originally inspired by gymnastics, and it focused on the whole body instead of individual muscles or groups of muscles. In 1945, Joseph Pilates published his book Return to Life Through Contrology in which he introduced his philosophy on Contrology, which would later come to be known as Pilates. Basically, he didn’t believe in treating the body gently or approaching exercise in anything other than a holistic way. To instruct, he relied on lots of demonstration. And his movements were quite jerky. He didn’t have a lot of scientific data to back up his approach. But, as we’ll see later, he got more right than anyone could have supposed at the time. In Return To Life (page 8) Joseph states:

“This does not imply that we must devote ourselves only to the mere development of any particular pet set of muscles, but rather more rationally to the uniform development of our bodies as a whole”

After Joseph Pilates’ death in 1967, his students carried the torch of what he started, adding new touches and flourishes as they went. For example, sometime in the 1980s the 6 principles of Pilates were introduced, which are Control, Centering, Concentration, Precision, Breath, and Flow. Joseph’s proteges also had a different philosophy on how to work with people’s injuries and weaknesses. Where Joseph had been fearless and vigorous in his teaching, they became more cautious and gentle. Their approach to cueing also changed dramatically from Joseph Pilates’ ideas: Rather than demonstration, they relied mostly on explanation to instruct students. These first-generation teachers were mostly dancers, which explains why gracefulness was emphasized over the jerkiness of Joseph’s era.

Starting in the 1990s, Pilates entered a more contemporary phase with a biomechanical focus. Gone was Joseph’s holistic approach in favor of focusing on individual muscles, one at a time. This is where STOTT PILATES comes into the picture. The 5 STOTT PILATES principles are all based on biomechanics as it was currently understood in the 1990s and early 2000s. They are Breathing, Pelvic Stabilization, Thoracic/Rib Cage Placement and Stabilization, Scapular Mobility and Stability, and Cervical/Head Placement. Like the previous Classical era, STOTT PILATES cueing also relies heavily on verbal instruction over demonstration.

Coming Full Circle

As it turns out, Joseph Pilates had the right idea all along. Sometimes people nail it on the first try, and those who follow in their footsteps can simply return to their ways and refine them a little. That’s the case with the latest Pilates method, Contrology 2.0, which is based on both current scientific data and historical wisdom.

The team at Breathe Education learned that a biopsychosocial model is better for helping people with injuries and chronic pain than a purely biomechanical approach. Psychosocial factors include a person’s pain beliefs, self-efficacy, coping strategies, social support, and expectation of outcome. The biopsychosocial model includes the bio – but sees it as one component of the whole person.

The three developments that are having the most profound effect on the changing nature of Pilates today are:

  1.   The popularity of online Pilates platforms
  2.   The rise of the Pilates fitness franchise
  3.   The evolution of rehabilitation science, movement science, and pain science.

1. Online Pilates platforms

have popularized on-demand instruction from top experts from around the world. It’s quite different from the two previous Pilates methods because it requires a lot of demonstration to make it work. This hearkens back to the earliest teaching method. And there’s a good reason for that.

Instructors don’t usually instruct students on a one-on-one basis, so they can’t provide specific verbal corrections to everyone. Nor can they do fully hands-on teaching because they’re not in the same room as their students. Thus, they have to rely on showing students what to do so they can follow along.

  1. Pilates fitness franchises are quite popular nowadays. In fact, the majority of Pilates instructors and students engage in group Pilates fitness classes. This has introduced the idea that movement should be dynamic, intense, and full range in nature.

In contrast, previous Pilates methods focused on graceful and fluid movement. Contrology 2.0 returns to the original thinking that focuses on whole-body movement and high intensity in a relatively fast full range of movements. Of course, the original jerkiness wasn’t ideal, either. We’ve come up with a nice middle-of-the-road balance between the extremes.

  1. Advancements in science have ironically brought us back very close to the original thinking of Joseph Pilates when he created Contrology, although it’s not exactly the same. For example, a great deal of research into motor learning (which is how humans learn movement skills) has shown that the best ways to teach a new movement skill are demonstration and practice with feedback. Lengthy explanations aren’t as helpful as we once thought.

As for hands-on guidance, the research is fairly clear that if instructors continue to use hands-on guidance too long, their students will become dependent on it, essentially they can only do the movement correctly when their instructor’s hands are on them. Verbal instruction works well when used sparingly with long intervals for students to explore their own movements without being told exactly what to do. This is a more empowering approach that puts responsibility with the student.

The best way to teach turns out to be the first way that Joseph himself favoured. We’ve virtually come full circle to a more demonstrative style with sparing verbal instruction.

The Key to Rehabilitation

Pain science and rehabilitation science have come a long way in the past few decades. Now we understand that isolating muscles and joints isn’t actually helpful or important to help people suffering from chronic conditions. However, isolating muscles and joints does have its place in post-surgical rehabilitation, especially in the early stages after surgery.

Randomized, controlled studies have proven time after time that changes in muscle activation timing doesn’t improve people’s health in a statistically significant way. In other words, isolating muscles isn’t the best way to exercise or promote recovery after suffering trauma. Although we thought so 20 years ago, it turns out that activating your deep core muscles in a certain way simply isn’t that important for your spine health, and doesn’t protect against back pain.

In truth, the most important thing for people to do, if they have injuries or pain, is just get active and start building confidence in their bodies. Self-efficacy is believing your body is robust rather than fragile. Just like Joseph Pilates taught. For example, all high-quality clinical practice guidelines around the world define that best practice when it comes to dealing with back pain is to reassure people they’re going to be okay and that they should remain active. They should get moving as best they can because staying still isn’t going to solve most health issues.

Contrology 2.0

Breathe Education teaches Contrology 2.0. We call it that because it’s the exact same choreography Joseph Pilates taught in his book Return to Life Through Contrology. From instructions and poses to sequences and exercises, everything we teach is straight out of that book, along with other things that have been scientifically proven to be effective. It’s not because older is automatically better, or anything like that. It’s because we’ve discovered, through painstaking trial and error, and through reading LOTS of research, that most of what Joseph Pilates first came up with was actually ideal.

The way you teach Pilates is just as important as what you teach. We now know that the best way to teach is in a hands-on, demonstrative fashion. We’ll teach you how to do that, even in an online setting. That way, your students will not only get the best information from you, but they’ll learn it in a way that helps them get the most out of it.

Learning the Right Skills to Succeed

Of course, the world is quite different from when Joseph Pilates was alive. If you want to succeed as a Pilates instructor, you not only need to have the right technical skills, but you must be comfortable teaching large groups of people of all shapes, sizes, and conditions in-person and online.

If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry. By the time you complete Breathe Education’s certification courses, you’ll be able to tailor your programs and sequences in modern, non-traditional ways that flow seamlessly and incorporate fitness-based exercises. And you’ll be able to come up with exercises that help people use all their muscle groups and vary their routines so they’re getting something new and refreshing each time.

It’s important to know the rules so you know when it’s appropriate to break them. That’s why we teach you the traditional Contrology routine, and we also give you the skills and confidence to put together a non-traditional, current fitness Pilates session to fit your students’ needs. Plus, you’ll learn the latest cueing and programming methods, which are backed up by scientific research.

If you’re ready to move past STOTT PILATES by returning to the wisdom of the past with a healthy dash of science and current practice, Contrology 2.0 is for you!