- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2001

When celebrities such as Madonna began practicing Pilates, average exercisers began looking for a place to work their abdominals like the actress and singer.

What exercisers found may stretch and tone them, but it may not be the real Pilates.

In 1992, the Pilates Studio claimed ownership of the trademarked name Pilates. The Pilates Studio modernized founder Joseph H. Pilates' program, training and certifying more than 500 instructors who completed a nine- to 12-month training class and apprenticeship.

Last October, however, U.S. District Court in Manhattan declared Pilates a generic form of exercise, such as karate or yoga, and not exclusive property of the Pilates Studio. That means any gym or dance studio can offer the class without its instructors undergoing official certification.

"When other people saw what we were doing, they tried to call it Pilates," says Sean Gallagher, a New York physical therapist and founder of the Pilates Studio. "Now anyone can call themselves a Pilates teacher. What a lot of studios are teaching looks nothing like real Pilates."

Going to a teacher certified by the Pilates Studio is a better investment, says Lesa McLaughlin, a Pilates Studio-certified instructor and co-owner of Excel Movement Studio in Northeast.

"I really believe in the the power of the original work that Joseph Pilates did," she says. "Just because you take equipment and work on it, it does not mean it is Pilates. It can get very watered down. Pilates is such a complex program, it needs instructors who have put a lot of time into learning it. Even if you are a dancer or a trainer, that doesn't mean you understand the work."

Ms. McLaughlin advises those interested in Pilates to ask about an instructor's experience and certification before signing up for a class.

"People should have experience with Pilates before trying to teach it," she says.

Elizabeth Larkham, a San Francisco Pilates instructor and a spokeswomen for the American Council on Exercise, says it is more important to find an instructor who meets an individual's needs.

"Every single Pilates exercise in its original form is challenging and difficult to do," she says. "It can put a lot of strain on the neck. It is important that an exercise consumer remember that pure, unmodified Pilates may not be in their best interest. It is not necessarily that important that an instructor be certified by the Pilates Studio. It is more important they know about exercise. The Pilates consumer should get an instructor that is credible for them."

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