Journey to Classical Pilates: Building a Successful Classical Pilates Studio

My name is Lili Viola and I am a Pilates teacher and studio owner in Toronto, Canada. My original training in Pilates dates back to 2002 through Stott Pilates in Toronto. I went through all of their training in modules, beginning with the mat and Reformer and gradually adding in the Cadillac, Chairs and Barrels modules, and working through their certification process to the advanced levels. I started my work experience teaching primarily mat group classes at gyms, and eventually ended up teaching out of a fitness club that had Stott equipment and the ability to offer me private clients.

In 2013, I was hired by Equinox to be the Coordinator for the Pilates studio in their newly opened location on Bay Street in Toronto. This studio was outfitted with Gratz apparatus, and this is where my conversion story begins.

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My Pilates Journey by Jennifer Ruggiero

My name is Jennifer Ruggiero and own The Pilates Movement in NYC. My journey with Pilates began as a dance major at SUNY Purchase in 1994. It was built into an Anatomy class we were required to take. My first impression at 18 years old was not a good one. It pointed out all of my muscular imbalances that my body had from years of ballet and my ego didn’t like that very much. In truth, I hated it.

In 1995 I had developed a stress fracture in my second metatarsal of my left foot which meant I could not take my dance courses for about 6 months. The dance department at Purchase during those years had a Pilates studio downstairs. I was allowed to take Pilates private sessions in place of my dance technique classes. I was 19 years old and not dancing while all of my friends were upstairs dancing, was torture, not to mention I was in a lot of pain. 6 months later I was allowed back into my dance classes and to my amazement my body was stronger than it was before. When I think back to those sessions, they were very interesting as I was not able to put any weight on my foot. My teachers did not follow any specific order with me and it was a very different experience from what I was used to. Continue reading “My Pilates Journey by Jennifer Ruggiero”

Pilates Fire That Keeps on Burning – Going More Joe with Carrie Pfenning

carrie pfenningIn 1995 I was a performing arts major in my junior year at The Boston Conservatory. I spent one hour a week in Jessica Sayre’s ‘floor barre’ class. In this class we quickly executed the same exercises every week, following Jessica’s enthusiastic voice while we moved to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. And while I was having fun, those same exercises got a little boring after a while. During that year, I had been at my strongest in the studio and on stage, and looking back on it, I now attribute that to the “floor barre” that I had been doing. So, really, my “Going More Joe” experience happened over a period of 17 years. Some of us learn quickly, while some of us…well, you get the idea.

By 2001 I had finished my brief stint in the performing arts world and had become an early childhood educator. My youngest son had just been born, and as a Mother’s Day gift I received a gift certificate for 10 mat classes and 2 private lessons at a local Pilates studio. (To this day my husband marvels over the fire that gift certificate sparked.) My college roommate was getting certified to teach Pilates and had been telling me how much I would love it. Well, I did love it. It’s precision and principles spoke to my inner dancer, and it was suggested I get certified. Why not? I had a degree in Performing Arts and one in Education- it made sense as a next step even though I already had a plan to work towards a job in the school system (for the benefits and vacations). Benefits and vacations had no chance in my mind anymore – I was in love with Pilates.

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Going More Joe Story by Susannah Cotrone

Susannah Cotrone
My first introduction to Pilates was as a 14-year-old ballerina at the Houston Ballet summer intensive. They had a studio on site and it was a required activity for our level. I was very annoyed that I had to wake up early and take an exercise class before my ballet class and tried many different ways to get out of it. Eventually, I was rounded up and shipped off to my first Pilates class. And wouldn’t you know it, I loved it! I had never taken a class that was so balanced, specific and useful for what I wanted to do with my body. That summer I went from trying to avoid Pilates to trying to sneak on the bus whenever there was an extra spot.

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Classically Contemporary

By Tracy Belcher

My journey to Pilates started where so many of life’s great turning points occur… in my therapist’s office.
My name is Tracy Belcher, and I am a Pilates teacher in Miami, FL, and a classical convert. I also run Pilatay.com, a blog for and by Pilates teachers.

I found Pilates as a busy public relations professional at a top PR firm, about 14 years ago. Late nights and long days left me little time to workout. I had tried everything from kickboxing to capoeira, but nothing really stuck… until I met my first reformer. The tight deadlines, coupled with managing 7-10 accounts, client expectations, and the staff team on each account, left me ridden with insomnia and anxiety. Pilates calmed my mind and centered me in a way nothing had before. I was hooked.

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The Magic Pilates Foot

Joe Pilates believed our feet were so valuable that he made two pieces of apparatus specifically for them – in addition to the hundreds of exercises he created with or without equipment that made use of, increased the flexibility and strength of, and re-united our feet with the rest of our body. He believed our feet were under-used, abused and unsupportive of the rest of us. They have only gotten more so.

When the well-aligned foot tones, engages, neurologically connects to the rest of our body, it provides a wealth of important ramifications up the link system of our body, releasing gripped/tense areas, toning weak or illusive places, as close as the ankle or knee and as far away as the occiput.

We Pilates teachers can make immediate and far-reaching use of observing the foot, whether while doing a foot exercise such as Foot Corrector or adjusting the relationship of the foot to Reformer straps. In all cases, we can assume and look for other results besides foot alignment, tone, or balanced usage. We can see consequent support for any and all axial joints from ankle to pelvic floor and diaphragm to occiput, decompressing and activating to do their inherent job. We can “turn on” hamstrings or psoas and “turn off” hip flexors or spinal erectors simply by gaining access to parts of the foot that have not been working.
Continue reading “The Magic Pilates Foot”

My Pilates Story by Connie Borho

My journey to Pilates started, as many do, with an injury. Or more specifically, through a civil war my body conducted with itself named Adrenal Fatigue. It was the early ‘90s and I was managing a fitness facility in New York’s Westchester County, which is about 40 minutes north of NYC. I had worked in fitness in a variety of roles, mostly group fitness but also personal training for many years, and thought I had reached the pinnacle of a successful career when I landed a management job. As anyone who has managed a fitness program or center knows, if an instructor calls in sick, YOU THE MANAGER have to cover the class, cuz the show must go on — especially in Westchester. So in addition to teaching my own classes (which I wouldn’t give up even though I was Manager), I often ended up teaching 4-5 classes per day — mostly high energy classes like Step, Spinning, and Sculpting. I kept to that schedule for almost 2 years and then my body’s revolt started. At that time, Adrenal Fatigue wasn’t recognized as a chronic, real, condition as it is today. I thought I was tired. I thought I didn’t work out enough because I was gaining weight. I thought my depression was because of anything else (and there were many many things that I could blame that on) not the fact that I was slowly killing myself by doing too much of EVERYTHING. Continue reading “My Pilates Story by Connie Borho”

The Journey to a Pilates Video Pioneer – by Ana Cabán

A shy dancer…
As a young child I used to twirl to the sound of music. (Well, that’s what my mother has told me, anyway.) Due to a shy nature, and a fascination with twirling, my mother put me in dance class at the age of 3 ½. What started as a fun distraction and way to overcome my shyness, (yes, I was shy as a child), turned out to be a love affair with movement, one that would eventually lead me to teach Pilates.

Like many young dancers, I had visions of performing professionally. So, immediately after graduating from college I headed to the Big Apple, and Steps Studios on W 74th St. (Little did I know that a few years later I would be toggling between that very same building and W 57th St to train with Bob Liekens at The Pilates Studio of NY and Romana Kryzanowska, at Drago’s Gym, respectively.)

How it all began…
I was rehearsing for an off-Broadway show when suddenly a simple move had me lying flat on my back. My low back was in spasm! The pain was excruciating and I had no idea how I was going to ever get up off of the floor. With help I was able to get up and onto a subway train, back to my apartment. There I lay in bed for 3 or 4 days, waiting for the pain to subside. Once I could stand up straight, again, I was on a mission to find relief. In an effort to heal, I moved back into my parents’ house in Western Massachusetts and tried sports medicine, massage, shiatsu, acupuncture and finally chiropractic. Thank God for my chiropractor! Not only did he relieve me of my pain, he suggested that I begin taking Pilates lessons, so that I could maintain what he was doing for me. I took one session a week at “Your Own Gym”, a Pilates studio housed in the top floor of a shopping marketplace. I found the gym rather odd, with barn-like wood floors and strange looking “exercise” equipment. Nonetheless, I gave it a go, and it turned out that my Pilates session became the highlight of my week. My homework was matwork. Only back then, there were no books, or videos to follow. (How funny for me to realize, years later, that I had been training at Mary Bowen’s Pilates studio and that I would actually become a Pilates video/DVD pioneer!)

Although my back did get a lot better, my dance career was short-lived. I decided to go back to UMass, where I did my undergrad degree, to complete my teaching credential and become a Spanish teacher. I taught Spanish for a few years, in both NYC and Miami, but was never passionate about it. However one day, while lying on South Beach, I had an epiphany about my true calling. It occurred to me that if I had been trained as a dancer to move my body, as well as licensed to teach, why not teach people how to better their care for their bodies? … Enter Pilates.

I began researching where to learn to teach Pilates and all signs led me to The Pilates Studio of NY, to train directly with Romana, (Sari Mejia-Pace and Bob Liekens). My daily routine was to arrive at Drago’s Gym at 7:00AM and stay until 1:00PM, (Romana’s hours), then head over to The Pilates Studio of NY to observe Bob, (as well as amazing instructors like Michael Fritze and Ton Voogt), in the afternoons. For 10 months I slept on a twin mattress, on the floor of my brother’s bachelor pad, and I juggled a couple of jobs for spending money. It was a busy time, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. (I lived on a cocktail of adrenaline and caffeine.)

Photo with Romana, 1998 (She would remember your injury, but not your name. In my case I was “Miss South Beach”.)

After completing my Pilates certification I headed back down to sunny Miami, to open up my first Pilates studio. There were only 3 other people teaching Pilates, in the entire city, so it was a great time to be launching my new career. Shortly after I opened my studio I was invited by a company called Living Arts, (now Gaiam), to help them segue from offering only yoga video programming into including Pilates. Before I knew it I had I moved to Los Angeles, started producing Pilates videos and helping spread the word about Pilates around the world. It was an exciting time.

I opened my second Pilates studio, in the heart of LA’s Miracle Mile district, and partnered with Peak Pilates® to offer Pilates teacher education programs, as a Master Instructor on their team. For nearly 15 years I taught and traveled for the Peak Pilates education department, helping to certify instructors around the world.

Today my time is spent as Brand Ambassador for Balanced Body, creating online Pilates programs and teaching my weekly mat class at Equinox in Glendale, CA.

I feel so fortunate to have stumbled upon Pilates, so many years ago. I am honored to have had the opportunity to train closely with Romana and carry on the Pilates Method as she shared it with me.

Bio
International presenter on fitness, wellness and inspiration, Ana Cabán is best known for her award-winning bilingual Pilates DVDs, produced by Gaiam, (which to date have sold nearly 5 Million copies). She is certified by the PMA, The Pilates Studio of New York ®, Peak Pilates®, (for whom she was a Master Instructor for 15 years), and ACE® (the American Council on Exercise). Additionally, she is a Certified Speaker Trainer and Coach on the John Maxell Team.
After two decades of inspiring health and wellness, Ana was recently brought on to champion the new Contrology classical equipment line for Balanced Body. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, with her son Vincent and their rescue pup, Casper. She is honored to share her Pilates journey on Going More Joe. Follow Ana at www.anacaban.com, on facebook and instagram.

The Art of Teaching Pilates

The Art of Teaching Pilates
You know you are a real Pilates nerd when you own more Pilates t-shirts than regular ones. My favorite t-shirt was recently given to me by my amazing Pilates family at Vintage Pilates in Los Angeles. On it, it says “We don’t change the work, the work changes us”.

I was first introduced to that concept back in 2000 during my teacher training at The Pilates Center in Boulder Colorado. It’s through their instruction that I realized teaching is an art. My perception is perhaps a little askew due to being a dance artist most of my adult life. I first encountered Pilates in 1987 during my first professional dance job with a company in which we took Pilates three times a week. I immediately fell in love with Pilates so I practiced every day religiously, so much so that over time I gradually stopped taking dance classes and trained only with Pilates. A few years later, I asked my teacher about getting certified but her advice to me at the time was to wait and focus on my dance career and its intense touring demands. I waited, keeping my practice while I danced and toured the world. Despite the ferocious physicality of our dance repertoire and the intense touring demands for close to two decades, I am still dancing today. Joseph Pilates’ work kept me dancing and I can say proudly that I am aging gracefully in both my body and my mind.

After 30 years of personal practice, teaching others, performing, choreographing, training teachers and being a Franklin Method movement educator I find myself continually asking myself the same question: What is teaching? How do I further deepen my teaching while continuing to enhance the experience for my clients? Continue reading “The Art of Teaching Pilates”

The Wrap! by Amy Taylor Alpers

Let’s have a little discussion about “the Pilates wrap”. What the heck is it, and how and why would we even want to do it? “The Wrap” is a rather vague and confused term used by many primarily classically trained Pilates teachers, supposedly to activate the gluteals. It’susedinterchangeably to mean anything from “squeeze your butt”, “pinch your butt”, “squeeze your sitz bones together”, to “tuck under”, and more. Romana used to say, “Pretend you’re sitting on a block of ice” to get the effect she was looking for. I heard that Kathy Grant, who could be somewhat more graphic at times, would say something like, “Don’t let your butt hang out all over my equipment like that.” Lol

The trouble is, how do we really do this movement and what is it for really? Mostly, when coached to “wrap,” clients simply tuck and squeeze their lower butt together. This in effect, pushes the lower part of the buttocks under and forward into the upper quads, posteriorly rotates the pelvis, over-flattens the spine and low back, and even often hyper-extends the knees as they try to counter the curve of the forward thigh. It even leads to rounded shoulders and forward head posture. As you can imagine, this can lead to many problems.

If, for instance, you “wrap” in this manner as you roll down in Short Spine, you could potentially strain your back muscles or joints as they are being pulled apart by the directional force of the tucking, hyper-elongating them, and then are being passively stretched with the addition of a gravitational weight on them. This is really a scenario where the client is hanging into their back versus supporting it while massaging it. It should be a huge red flag.

If you wrap in a way that pushes your femurs into the front of the hip joint over and over, for instance in Footwork or Roll up, you can easily be chronically wearing out the hip labrum or socket, leading to potential tears and joint deterioration. I find this pattern to be so common as to be practically the norm today. The low back is flattened, unsupported and very vulnerable to strain and weakness, especially when forward flexing to pick something up off the floor for instance. We see many herniated discs due to this exact series of events. Also, the hip sockets are thrust forward out of the line of gravity, aggravating the hip joint, labrum and quadriceps, and leading to hip and knee pain, dysfunction, and even replacement. It’s an epidemic. There’s got to be a better way, right?

Let’s look at the actual directional force of the contraction of the gluteus muscles. There are three layers: Gluteus Minimus, Gluteus Medius, and Gluteus Maximus. They all attach to the greater trochanter of the femur, and then rise diagonally upwards from there toward the low back, sacrum and/or ilium. If you think of “the wrap” going upwards in this direction, where the gluts pull the greater trochanter slightly back and then up obliquely into the powerful lift of the low back fascia, then your whole body will feel the rising effect of being your tallest self, with muscle support everywhere. No hanging.

This movement will naturally pull the femur backwards under the hip joint, where it should be, sending the weight of the body cascading straight down through the center of the knee joint, down the tibia to the ankle/Talus, and out into the arches of the feet where it should land; and conversely it should send you up your spine, open your shoulders, and put your head back on top of your neck correctly. This should give you a feeling of a tremendous uplift in your spine and relief in your legs, hips, back, neck, and maybe even heart, lungs, eyes and brain. You can probably think, breathe and maybe even see better.

The extremely 3-dimensional nature of the human design can make this concept relatively easy when standing up in gravity, but when we transfer it to lying flat, either prone or supine, or sitting up flexed at the hip, as in Short Box or Stomach Massage, or turn it upside down as in Short Spine, it becomes more complicated to imagine let alone do. However, it’s still the same. The gluts should lift upwards from your greater trochanter towards your sacrum to support and lift your back, spine, neck and head up, and completely prevent you from tucking under or hanging in your lower back.

Just like flying buttresses on the side of a cathedral enabled a gothic church to rise upwards to the heavens for the first time ever, so should the muscles that work to keep your femur as it angles into the hip joint like a flying buttress, i.e. your gluteals, thrusting your spine spire upwards to the sky.

Amy Taylor Alpers is the co-founded of The Pilates Center (TPC) and The Pilates Center Teacher Training Program (TPCTTP) over 25 years ago in Boulder, Colorado. When not traveling the world to teach both foundational and graduate level Pilates teacher education she remains part of the core faculty for TPCTTP, mentors advanced teachers, teaches classes and sees clients. In addition to teaching TPC sponsored workshops, Amy has presented numerous times at the Pilates Method Alliance Annual Meeting, Balanced Body’s Pilates on Tour and Passing the Torch. In 2013, Amy presented at the Shared Traditions Conference for Fletcher Pilates and will present at The Pilates Roundtable to The PMA Teacher Training Summit.

Amy was born in Youngstown, Ohio where she began classical ballet at age two.
She attended The Juilliard School for Dance, danced with the Garden State Ballet in New Jersey, and received a B.A. in Dance and a M.A. in Dance History from New York University. In addition, Amy taught ballet at various dance schools in New York City for ten years before launching her Pilates career.

Both Amy and her sister Rachel studied Pilates under the direct tutelage of Romana Kryzanowska at the original Pilates Studio in New York City. They received their Pilates teaching certificate from there in July of 1989. In 1990, after moving to Boulder, Colorado, Amy and Rachel founded The Pilates Center. The sisters then created and established The Pilates Center Teacher Training Program in 1991. The school has since expanded to include an Intermediate Program, Advanced Program, Bridge Program, Master’s Program, and a Mentorship Program. In addition, TPC now has “Licensed” and “Host” studios established all around the world.

Amy and her sister wrote The Everything Pilates Book, published in 2002. She was a founding board member of the PMA and sat on the board that created the PMA Certification Exam. Recently she has also had the honor of filming classes and workshops for online organizations such as Pilates Anytime and Pilates On Demand.

In 2011, Amy, her sister Rachel, and Ken Endelman of Balanced Body, developed CenterLine – a line of equipment designed for classical Pilates and based upon the specifications pioneered by Joseph Pilates.