Joe Pilates didn’t teach levels, he taught people. He adjusted each exercise and apparatus to the body in front of him. The division of the method into basic (L1), intermediate (L2) and advanced levels (L3) is more recent and slightly artificial, but that’s not to say that it isn’t useful in a health club setting.
The levels are a template or guide, not a competition. Pilates is not a sport, it is a practice. In fact, Pilates is corrective exercise with roots in therapeutic modalities. The exercise levels are made up of developmental goals and a way of moving rather than exactly what exercises you do. Because Pilates is progressive, mastering the basic exercises is vital. The basic exercises are the foundation to the work and aren’t dropped from the repertoire as it increases. Rather, an advanced class is classified L3 due to the number of exercises completed in the hour, the coordination of the exercises, tempo and the strength, stretch and stamina needed to perform the exercises.
The levels are most obvious in a mat or equipment class since in private sessions the work is customized to you.
L1 - These classes teach you the basics of the method through a series of simple, challenging exercises. The goal for this level is to find your powerhouse, to begin to find lift in the body and to even out the alignment of the torso. You will start to feel the benefits of Pilates.
L2 - When your body has absorbed the basics, you are ready to take intermediate level sessions. The aim of this level is to strengthen and deepen the powerhouse. Some new movement patterns are introduced (e.g. back bends) and other patterns already present in the basic level are expanded upon. What makes you intermediate is not how long you have studied, but how much your body has absorbed and remembers from session to session.
L3 - At the advanced level the focus is on increasing the stamina of the powerhouse. More upper body exercises are introduced with the aim of working the upper back and connecting it more deeply with the rest of the powerhouse. The advanced level is where complete flow and synchronization with the breath takes place.
To be the best version of you in Pilates, there is nothing to be gained by rushing ahead in your progress and practice. Impatience means that you will simply not get as much from your classes as you could. If you have an injury or illness, it is advisable to have private sessions before you join a mat or equipment class to ensure your needs are properly addressed.
At Greenwood, our staff is trained to teach multi-level classes within each level. Additionally, our goal is to build a working Pilates vocabulary in the body and learn Pilates concepts and principles. All of our classes include fundamentals with flow, building block progressions and extra stretches to keep you moving- developing stability, strength, flexibility and stamina.