While various Pilates teachers and studios have their own particular styles influence by their backgrounds, where they have studied and what they like, there is a basic distinction between those who practice the 'traditional Pilates method' and those who practice the 'contemporary Pilates method'. it is fair to say that most teachers now practice the latter.
The traditional method is based purely on Joseph Pilates’ original work and doesn’t deviate from the original 34 exercises and the order in which Pilates has envisaged them. A key feature of the traditional approach to Pilates is the position of the pelvis during mat-based exercises: abdominal exercises are generally taught in a posterior tilt so that the entire back is pressed into the floor.
This method was designed for very fit and athletic people, principally dancers and therefore can be very strenuous and not adequate for the general public, particularly a mixed ability class.
The contemporary method is also based on Joseph Pilates’ original work but has been adapted and modernised, and influenced by physical therapy and biomechanics. It incorporates new and varied exercises which can be tailored to meet the mixed abilities of the general public. Exercises are generally taught with the spine in a neutral position which, when lying on one’s back, means that there should be a bit of space between the lower back and the floor.