Happy Birthday Ron Fletcher, Pilates Pioneer

Ron Fletcher

Ron Fletcher

“Every body is beautiful, every body is divinely inspired, superbly designed, awesome in the complex way it’s put together and wonderful in the simple, economical way it works. Every body can be vital, strong, flexible, moving through life with grace and assurance, totally healthy, not just some of the time, but most of the time.”  Ron Fletcher.  Every Body is Beautiful. 1978.


When I first started teaching Pilates back in 2004, I was determined to learn from as many of the Pilates elders as possible.  I attended several Pilates conferences in the US, and took classes with Mary Bowen, Kathy Grant, Lolita San Miguel, and Ron Fletcher.

In Ron’s class we were made to stand up and follow his “seven standing and centring cues”:  Foot centres, Magnets, Bolts, Girdle of strength, Percussive breathing, Shoulder girdle placement and Head and neck placement”.  As he was speaking if we started slumping or losing our posture one of Ron’s teachers would come around and correct us.

At the beginning of this workshop I was getting frustrated.  What was supposed to be a movement class was just hard work keeping still.  But when I focused on the stories Ron was telling about his experiences with Joe and then in Hollywood, I forgot my discomfort and was mesmerized.

From Left: Geri Taylor, Kyria Sabin, Sarah Woodhouse

From 2012 – 2016 I studied Fletcher Pilates, completing the Fletcher Intensive and Advanced Intensive courses in Melbourne with instructor Sarah Woodhouse.  In 2013 I attended a Fletcher Conference in Tucson Arizona, meeting Fletcher instructors from all over the world, learning more exercises and choreography.  I travelled to London in 2016 study with Kyria Sabin at Pilates on Tour and learn more about Ron Fletcher and his innovative Pilates method.

Ron Fletcher is celebrated for his unique and transformative contributions to Pilates.  His journey from dancer to teacher illustrates his passion, creativity and unwavering dedication to the method. A few of his innovations include Breath work and the Fletcher Towel.

Born in Dogtown Missouri in 1921, Ron’s initial training was in dance. He studied with choreographer Martha Graham and became a member of the Graham Company.  It was after a knee injury that his dance career faced significant challenges.  Seeking rehabilitation and strength training period he discovered the Pilates method.

Fletcher’s initial session with Joseph and Clara in their New York studio helped him recover and ignited a lifelong passion.  He once recalled that he knew immediately that Pilates was more than just a series of exercises.  It was a way to understand the body, to fine-tune it, and to move with grace and precision.

Over the years Ron Fletcher became an influential student, incorporating his dance background into his understanding of Pilates.  This helped Ron Fletcher in his work as a choreographer, training dancers and other performers.  After Joe’s passing in 1967, Ron took on a pivotal role in promoting the method on the West Coast, establishing a studio in Los Angeles.  This studio soon became a haven for dancers, actors and other performers seeking a holistic approach to fitness and movement.  He was known for his breath work, the flow of his exercises and his holistic approach to moving the body.


Kyria said that Ron was one of the first generation Pilates masters to really focus on the breath. He taught breathing to move instead of moving to breathe, and using the breath to fuel the movement.  Ron often asked his classes, “Are you a stingy breather? Well, don’t be. Be extravagant with your breathing and come fully alive.“  Ron Fletcher.  Ron Says by Kyria Sabin. 2017.

He also introduced the concept of “percussive breathing”, a rhythmic breathing technique that enhanced focus and control during exercises. He uses breathing patterns to determine the rhythm and flow. Even something as simple as calf raises can benefit – Inhale lift, inhale again lift higher, exhale lower, exhale lower more.  I use his breathing techniques such as Ron’s Clock to bring awareness to the breath and increase thoracic mobility and lung capacity and control the pace of the class using breath.

Ron Fletcher’s unique contributions also emphasize movement and flow, integrating elements of Graham technique into the exercises. He asked his students to find the flow in every movement.  He said Pilates is like a dance, where the transitions are as important as the positions. He had a special name for these flowing exercises – “gozintas”, one exercise flowing into the next.  A “gozinta” I use often in my mat class flows from mermaid, to extending leg and top arm, to side-lying, elbow on the floor, to book openings.


The development of the Fletcher Towelwork, a series of exercises using a braided towel to focus on shoulder girdle stability and precision, is one of his most notable innovations. It increases scapular awareness and improves postural alignment instantly.   I use the towel extensively in the studio, for warmups and also stability and shoulder work on the Wunda Chair.

Ron’s teaching often highlighted the mind-body connection saying control and discipline in the Pilates method begins with the mind.  You cannot separate the mind from the body.  The physical benefits of Pilates are immense, but the mental benefits are equally powerful.  It is a system that transforms both body and mind.

Fletcher was passionate about the way the exercises were performed.  Precision, the quality, condition or fact of being exact and accurate, is essential in Pilates. It’s not just about getting through a series of exercises, but how you do each movement.  Ron says that Pilates is not about perfection. We are human. It’s about striving for quality and accuracy in every movement. That also meant working both sides of the body evenly so that we do not become muscularly imbalanced.


Throughout his career, Ron Fletcher influenced a new generation of Pilates instructors, spreading his teaching around the globe.  He established a certification program to ensure that his approach to Pilates would be carried on accurately and with integrity.  His legacy endures through the countless instructors who continue to follow his methods.

Ron Fletcher passed away in 2011, but his impact on the Pilates community remains profound.  He took the foundational principles laid down by Joseph Pilates and transformed them into a dynamic and expressive system that continues to inspire practitioners worldwide.  His commitment to the art of movement and his innovative spirit made him a true pioneer in the world of Pilates.


Kyria Sabin is now the Director of Fletcher Pilates.  She initiated her studies with Ron in 1991 and founded Body Works Pilates Studios in Tucson, Arizona in 1993.  Recognised as a master teacher by Ron Fletcher, she developed the Pilates Program at the University and currently chairs the National Pilates Certification Program.

This final quote from Ron Fletcher reflects his belief in the deep connection between movement and life, emphasising the importance of enthusiasm and joy in physical activities.  “Movement should be approached like life – with enthusiasm, joy and gratitude – for movement is life, and life is movement, and we get out of it what we put into it.”    Ron Fletcher.  Every Body is Beautiful. 1978.


If you want to know more about Ron Fletcher, and see examples of his exercises, choreography, and the flow between the movements, check out his book. “Every Body is Beautiful” by Ron Fletcher with Alan Ebert. K  J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and New York 1978.


Ron Fletcher photocredit: Gary Buehler  – http://garythephotographer.com

CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/


Geri Taylor, PAA Member


About Geri

I have been teaching Pilates for over 20 years., training with Pilates ITC,  Polestar, Stott, and Fletcher Pilates.  I have a studio on the South Coast of NSW and teach over 20 classes a week to clients from 20 – 95 years old.  When I’m not teaching Pilates, I am running along the beach, swimming in the ocean and traveling to exotic locations to teach and learn Pilates.  I’m always after new ways to provide my clients with a safe, effective and fun Pilates experience.



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