The use of the titles "Soft style" and "Hard style" are a convenient way of describing two approaches to any form of exercise. They are not exclusive to the Pilates Method.
A Soft style is a "restorative" approach to working out. Its intensity is light to moderate. It has fewer exercises and is performed at a slower pace. The student is allowed to rest for a moment between exercises, taking stock of any changes, which may have occurred in alignment, sequencing, or ease of movement. This is a very safe way to increase one's kinesthetic awareness while correcting any muscular imbalances or movement patterns that may impede proper alignment or performance.
The Soft style is recommended for exercise rehabilitation, prenatal and postpartum, the special needs of senior citizens and those new to formal exercise. All new Pilates students, regardless of their fitness level, begin with the Soft style in order to acquire a strong foundation in the fundamentals of the Pilates Method.
A Hard style is a "stimulating" workout. It has more exercises than the Soft style and the tempo is vigorous. The intensity is high and the student must flow from exercise to exercise, performing choreographed transitions as they make their way through the routine. The benefits of this flowing style include a significant increase in muscular endurance and cardiovascular health, a high caloric burn, excellent balance and coordination, and long, lean flexible muscles, trained to fire in the proper sequence for grace and ease of movement.
"With body, mind, and spirit functioning perfectly, as a coordinated whole, what else could reasonably be expected other than an active, alert, disciplined person"- Joseph Pilates