Stott Pilates is a version of the Pilates method of physical exercise. It was developed by Lindsay and Moira Merrithew, with the collaboration of physical therapists, and sports medicine and fitness professionals. The most significant difference between Stott Pilates and Joseph Pilates’s original method of the early 1900s is that, where the original method uses a straight spine during exercise, Stott Pilates focuses on maintaining the natural curvature of the spine.


Following her career as a dancer with the Bermuda Ballet, and principal dancer with the City Ballet of Toronto and the Atlantic Ballet Company, Moira Merrithew learned, with the help of the Dancer Transition Resource Centre, of the Pilates method of exercise. Moira received her Pilates training in New York City from Romana Kryzanowska, a protégé of Joseph Pilates. After her training was complete and her return to Toronto, Moira and Lindsay Merrithew developed the Stott Pilates method in the 1980s. Lindsay has been instrumental in designing, producing and marketing the company’s extensive equipment and video lines and is a past member of Ontario’s prestigious Innovators Alliance for elite entrepreneurs. Lindsay was nominated twice for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and is a five-time recipient of PROFIT Magazine’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies award.

Prior to the conclusion, in 2000, of a trademark case about who was entitled to use the word ‘Pilates,’ The Stott Pilates Method was known as “Stott Conditioning a contemporary approach to the teaching of Joseph H Pilates.” In 2010, the company name was changed to Merrithew Health & Fitness, but the name of the method remained Stott Pilates.


The Stott Pilates method has exercises designed to restore the natural curves of the spine and rebalance the muscles around the joints. The Stott Pilates method places more emphasis on scapular stabilization than other methods. The method focuses on the following five basic principles:

  • Breathing
  • Pelvic placement
  • Rib cage placement
  • Scapular movement
  • Head and cervical spine placement


The breath pattern used in the Stott Pilates method involves an expansion of the rib cage out to the sides and back without allowing the shoulders to lift. According to Stott Pilates, it is also important to breathe into the lower part of the lungs, because there is more efficient gas exchange.

Pelvic placement

Pelvic placement emphasizes stabilization of the pelvis and lumbar spine (lower back) in either a neutral or an imprinted position. Neutral placement maintains the normal curve of the lower back: when lying on one’s back, the front of hip bones and pubic bone lie parallel to the mat, and the lower back is not to be pressed into the mat. While breathing and engaging abdominals in this position, no strain should be felt through the lower back. In an imprinted position, the lower back is moving toward the mat.

Ribcage placement

The rib cage position affects the alignment of the thoracic (upper) spine. When lying on the back in a neutral position, Stott Pilates practitioners maintain the sense of the weight of the ribs resting gently on the mat (that is, they maintain the normal curve of the upper back). They don’t lift off or push the rib cage into the mat, paying particular attention to the placement of the rib cage when inhaling or while performing arm movements overhead.

Scapular movement

When using the Stott Pilates method, stabilizing the scapulae (shoulder blades) on the back of the rib cage is as important as contracting the abdominals during the initiation of every exercise. This helps avoid strain through the neck and upper shoulders. To achieve proper placement, a sense of width is maintained across the front and back of the shoulders, making sure that the shoulders neither round forward too much nor squeeze together toward the spine; shoulders are not lifted too far, nor over-depressed. Placement is somewhere between these two positions.

Head and cervical spine placement

Stott Pilates placement of the cervical spine (neck) is such that it holds its natural curve, with the head balanced directly above the shoulders when sitting, lying and standing. In some cases, a small pillow is used when lying on the back to put the head and neck in a comfortable position. Whenever exercisers lift the head and upper body from the mat, they lengthen the back of the neck and nod the head forward, without jamming the chin into the chest. This way there is enough room to fit one’s fist between the chin and chest. Once the head is in proper position and the shoulder blades are stabilized (Principle 4), the upper torso can be lifted by contracting the abdominals and sliding the rib cage toward the pelvis.


Stott Pilates has grown from teaching the method itself to exercisers (students) to training both instructors and instructor trainers.

Student Training

In the mid-1980s, Moira and Lindsay set up a small studio in Toronto, Canada. Word of mouth, especially from Karen Kain, long-time principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada, about the benefits of Moira’s instruction led to rapid growth of the business, to the point that it grew into and through four studio premises from 1988 to 2003, until it was large enough to take up an entire floor of a major office tower in Toronto; the current headquarters of the business.

Instructor Training

In the 1990s, Moira and Lindsay recognized that there was a demand for teaching the Stott Pilates method outside the studio, so they codified the repertoire and started a program on how to teach the method to clients. By the end of the 1990s, trainers from all over the world had graduated from Stott Pilates courses. The 2000s saw a significant growth in the number of Stott Pilates-trained instructors and, in 2013, there were approximately 38,000 students trained in the method, worldwide.

Instructor Trainer Training

In the 2000s, with so many people both exercising with the Stott Pilates method and trained as instructors, Stott Pilates reached the point where it had to educate selected individuals on how to train interested instructors, so instructor training began. In 2013, there were approximately 250 certified instructor trainers across the world.


For an instructor or instructor trainer to maintain Stott Pilates certification, he or she must attend a minimum number of courses and workshops each year; thereby keeping current with the method. Many Stott Pilates courses and workshops are part of the Continuing Education Credit (CEC) programme, and many of them are also recognized by outside organizations, including the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Licensed Training Centers

By 2013, approximately 50 fitness centres around the world were licensed to provide training in the Stott Pilates method.


In the mid-1990s, for those without access to a Stott Pilates-trained instructor, and for those who wanted refreshers in the Stott Pilates method, the company started to publish videos and DVDs of most of its programs, and in several languages. Publishing DVDs increased the awareness of the Stott Pilates method as one of the small handful of contemporary versions of Pilates, and was part of what has prompted at least one industry magazine to describe the company as “Industry giant Merrithew Health & Fitness….”


A group of reformers at the Stott Pilates Training Center, 2200 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario.

Stott Pilates exercises can be done on the floor using a mat or on specialized equipment. Merrithew Health & Fitness manufactures equipment used for Stott Pilates exercises. The main piece of equipment used in the Stott Pilates method is the Reformer, which was designed by Lindsay, a horizontal carriage that glides forward and backward on rollers. Resistance is provided using springs, along with other attachments for a variety of exercises and positions (i.e., lying down, seated, and standing). The mat exercises may also include props such as the Stability Ball, Mini Stability Ball, Toning Balls, Flexband, Fitness Circle, etc..

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