Becoming an Integral part of The Pilates Center with Kelli Burkhalter-Hutchins

Kelli Burkhalter-Hutchins performing High Bridge on the Reformer by the lake
How did you get started in Pilates?
I grew up around fitness and had tried many different types of exercise over the years, i.e. Tae Bo, Aerobics, Walking, etc. I was drawn to Pilates because of the lean muscle and the celebrities that were doing it were thin 🙂

What lead you to The Pilates Center for your program?
I googled Pilates and The Pilates Center was the first listed. I only lived 15 minutes away from Boulder so I began my Pilates practice at TPC.

It’s a very prestigious honor to be asked to be a teacher at The Pilates Center. What was that like?It was a little nerve racking to begin my Pilates career teaching at The Pilates Center. Rachel Taylor Alpers told me during a lesson when I was still in the training program,that I was going to be a great teacher. I remember thinking, how do you know that?
The comment Rachel said gave me the confidence to begin teaching at The Pilates Center but I was still nervous. The first class or lesson I taught was possibly going to be observed by a student or other teachers at the studio; there was also the possibility that another much more experienced teacher would attend one of my classes. I was on my game every hour I taught.

A few years into teaching, Amy signed up to take one of my classes. At first, I felt stress, but over time having both Amy and Rachel in my classes it allowed me to mentor with them in a very different way. And sometimes I would hear Amy using some of my ideas in her own words in her lessons. It really increased my confidence to trust my instincts as a young teacher. This is one of the things I miss the most from no longer living in Colorado. The growth that I was able to receive by just teaching my mentors was incredible.

How did your role as a teacher at TPC evolve into the Director of Education?
Four months after graduating from the Advanced Program, I began to work at the front desk. I was quickly brought into management within a month. I began to add ideas and classes to the schedule to better assist students with their growth through the training program. When the Teacher Training Coordinator decided to “retire”, I was asked if I was interested in taking over that position. I, of course, agreed and was excited to begin to make a difference for the future students. I began adding better support the students through the program with additional requirements, as well as explanations of how to complete the program successfully. I also designed and created a few new programs to meet the market demands in Pilates Teacher Training.

Very quickly my job became bigger than just Teacher Training Coordinator and my position evolved into the Director of Education. I now manage all the teacher training programs (7 total), Enthusiast Program, Master’s Program, Host Advisors, Licensed Teacher Trainers, Licensed Studios, scheduling workshops local and traveling, online management system we refer to as iTPC, and speak with and support interested students as well as enrolled students. The other piece to my job is maintaining our state licensure with DPOS (Division of Private Occupational Schools) in Colorado, as well as the PSAP, PMA School Approval Program.

When you took on the role of Director of Education what changes and additions did you make to the existing programs and why?
Teaching Skills classes to the studio. These classes give students the opportunity to work together in a class setting, understanding the skills we need to learn for our examinations.
Observed Teachings were also added. The OT’s help prepare the students for their teaching exams.
Support documents to better explain to the student what is expected of them every week so that they could organize their Pilates schedules with their personal lives.
I convinced Amy and Rachel into creating what we call “Workbooks”. The workbooks are not manuals. They give key information about each exercise and the transitions. The students still need to create their own books from their point of view.Filming the Lecture Series.Eventually, I asked them to film themselves teaching our Formal Lecture Series so that all of our trainees will see the same information. It really codifies the program and gives them a dictionary about each exercise. Once we filmed the lecture series, we began to use an online management system that hosts all of our programs information, as well as the Formal Lecture Series. Students can now simultaneously watch the Formal Lecture Series while they complete internship hours in the studio setting. They are able to refer to the online videos if they are confused as to why an exercise has been modified, have a resource while they are going through the program, andcan focus on learning how to teach clients and address each client in font of themin the studio setting.

What was the reason to take the lectures online to iTPC? Many think the program is online, which isn’t true. It’s just the lectures and where you submit your hours.
The reason I felt it was important to film the lectures was to ensure every student was receiving the same information. I realized after I was teaching the lectures a few different times that it ended up being a game of telephone. We all put our own understanding into the work, but Amy and Rachel are really clear what they learned from Romana; and sometimes they disagreed. I felt strongly that it was important for all students to learn the information from the women who had founded The Pilates Center.

All of our students must attend the online lectures once, but are encouraged to attend them live while they are enrolled in the program. The students are quizzed on the information that they view enforcing what we want them to learn. This enhances their ability to learn the exercises well. They can pause and write notes, then when they see the lectures live they will get more out of it without feeling that they didn’t get all of the information. It frees the students up to enjoy their time at the lectures.

I realize that many people are against the idea of online, this is not a program that is just online. The majority of the hours are in the studio, the online portion is only 10 – 12 % of the programs. The online system, iTPC reinforces to the student what they are learning in the studio. When a student completes a “contact hour” in the studio, for example, Observed Teaching, that student must then go into iTPC and complete an assignment asking the student 5 questions about their experience. This again reinforces what they learned from their OT with their teacher. iTPC is also where we track documents that we have to keep for our state licensing.

What was the decision to have licensed teacher trainers and Host Advisors?
Originally we started allowing a few of our graduates we felt could offer our teacher training programs through what we called Licensed Studios. We started off with 4 Licensed Studios at the end of 2007. What this meant was that Licensed Studios taught our Formal Lecture Series and the students paid them the tuition. It also gave these graduates a territory, which eventually was an issue between local graduates in their area. As this started to cause issues we looked at a different more inclusive program for all of our graduates.

In 2011 we came up with the idea of creating Host Studios, Host Advisors, and Licensed Teacher Trainers to assist us with teacher training our students. These are available only to graduates of our Advanced 950 hour Program and Bridge 500 hour program.

When we first designed this model, we traveled to different locations and taught the lectures to the students of the Host Advisors. This proved to not be financially viable for TPC. Once the lectures were filmed in 2013, we added it to an online management system that allowed students to do our programs from anywhere using a Host Advisor and/or Licensed Teacher Trainer to assist them. We have since been training our Host Advisors and Licensed Teacher Trainers how to assist our students through the program.
Because of this new model, many of the Licensed Studios decided to participate as individual Licensed Teacher Trainers rather than paying a large licensing fee every year. This way they still get to teacher train without the risk of not enrolling enough students.

Licensed Teacher Trainers: can test students in and out of the program, which means they can do all pieces of the program. They must be a graduate of the 950 hour Advanced Program, completed the TPC Masters Program, teaching workshops, minimum of 5 years teaching experience, and PMA Certified

Host Advisor:will advise the students in the program, oversee case studies, part of the Observed Teachings, and assist with part of the examinations (minimally).

Both the LTT and HA have to attend a meeting that is designated to them.

What changed in the industry to have TPC become state licensed?
Amy and Rachel had no choice but to become licensed in Colorado as a vocational school. In 2001, they received a letter from the Colorado Department of Higher Education Division of Private Occupational Schools. After completing all of the paperwork they were approved in November 2003. I didn’t start working for them until 2005. I wasn’t there initially but have carried out the requirements since I took over the education position. The truth is that ALL states require that a business that is teaching a vocation are approved by their state. There are a few states that reject Pilates as a vocation. The state looks at this as consumer protection; they want to ensure that if a business is taking money to train someone for a vocation that it is a viable business that will not close the doors and keep the consumers money. The states require that businesses have a Refund Policy, Enrollment Agreement, and an insurance bond or other way to keep the funds paid to the business available to the student if the business closes their doors.We support that all Pilates schools should be licensed through their states. In order to become accredited in the future, schools will be required to be state licensed first to even go through this process.

What role have you taken within TPC and the industry to make Pilates a profession and to keep all studios and teachers protected?
We feel strongly that all Pilates schools should be licensed in their state. If their state exempts them then they should follow the Refund Policy of that state’s vocational licensing anyway. It protects the students and business and makes our industry more reputable. It allows for the student to know exactly what they are paying for, which is outlined in the Enrollment Agreement and Refund Policy. At this time, I volunteer my time to be on the PSAP (PMA School Approval Program) Committee through the PMA.

Where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?
The Pilates industry is very similar to the Massage industry. All Massage schools are state licensed and in most states Massage Therapists are required to be individually licensed. As doctors continue to encourage their patients to go to Pilates to strengthen themselves at some point, we may have to be licensed individually as well. We want to make sure that we have completed a recognized teacher training program if this occurs. Yoga was able to get themselves exempt in the State of Colorado. They said that they are not teaching a vocation but a practice in their teacher training programs. I would like for our Pilates careers to be more respected than this.

Kelli Burkhalter-Hutchins has been teaching Pilates since 2005. She became interested in classical Pilates in 2001 and found The Pilates Center of Boulder to begin her Pilates tutelage. As a child, Kelli was a competitive swimmer and participated in the Jr. Olympics. She has been exposed to fitness all of her life, as her mother has been deeply involved with fitness. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Kelli began as a client but by 2004 decided that she would enter into The Pilates Center’s Advanced Teacher Training Program. Upon graduation in 2005 she was hired as a teacher for The Pilates Center. In 2008, Kelli become the Teacher Training Coordinator for TPC and continued to grow the education programs at The Pilates Center. Currently Kelli is the Director of Education and handles all of The Pilates Center’s and works remotely from Austin, Texas.

Since graduating from TPC, Kelli has mentored closely with Amy Taylor Segel and Rachel Taylor Segel. While teaching at The Pilates Center, she had the privilege of teaching Amy and Rachel weekly. Kelli is PMA Certified and a PMA Provider, as well as a Master’s Program Presenter and Licensed Teacher Trainer for TPC. She has traveled around the world teaching Master’s Program Workshops for TPC and has taught at Pilates Anytime. Kelli has earned a noteworthy reputation for her “killer” chair classes and expertise in working with the upper body. She has worked with all levels and different ages of clients. Because she began her Pilates teaching career at TPC, where she taught for 9 years, she has been working with students of Pilates since 2004.

Classical Pilates Just Makes Sense – by Elena Bartley

Hi I am Elena Bartley, formerly Elena Dominguez!! Sunni asked me to write my story, or rather my journey into going more Joe, ☺

I was born in Mexico City, a long time ago. I wanted to be a ballerina as far back as I can remember, on 3rd. birthday my Mon made me my first TU-TU and I danced “Copelia” …lol. I still remember the steps my Mom taught me. I love it and it still makes me smile.

I moved to NYC in 1980, I became a Professional dancer at the Famous “Dance Theater of Harlem”, a dream come true! How did a small, brown ballerina get into a dance company that was 99% African American?? Sometimes I still find it hard to believe. It did not matter that I did not understand a word of English, I rejoiced at the challenge ….I am so glad the dance vocabulary is in French! Oh boy, after 5 years I finally understood my first sentence spoken by Director Arthur Mitchell: “It doesn’t make sense.“ It …… doesn’t…make…sense! After that, it never made sense, but I loved every second of it! That summer of 1980, I was fortunate to take a class with Kathy Grant. I did not know who she was until much later, but I loved the strengthening class she gave us during that summer. It was Pilates! Who knew!

Like many of us, I got into Pilates because of an injury. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to take Pilates like some of my colleges at DTH, but it was very expensive. $35 a session… oh boy impossible! I was making $75 a week, paying for rent and food. I really tried saving some pennies and not taking the subway, but with winter around the corner and me from sunny Mexico? Not!

But yes, I did get injured but it was a blessing in disguise. Our Osteopath was Dr. Ross, and he was amazing! I begged him for a Pilate’s prescription in place of Physical Therapy and he granted me a full year of Pilates’ session at the studio of Sean Gallagher. I was a happy camper! My first teacher was Steve Giordano, I also took classes with Leah and Carol Summer.

They got me back on my feet sooner and stronger than I ever imagined and the year went by so quickly. Time flies when you are having fun! Then another light into my life and career came when Sean asked me if I wanted to get certified in Pilates with Romana Kryzanowska. I had no idea who was she, but I just said yes because that meant to be able to use the Pilates studio as long as it took me to get certified. So I began “Going more Joe”. As I was becoming certified, Bob Liekens joined the Pilates Studio as the Head teacher in the studio! ☺ What a treat!
I eventually finished my certification! Since I was still a ballerina traveling 8 month out of the year, it took me 3 years to finish. But now, looking back, I can say I was a horrible student! I think I was an arrogant ballerina that only wanted Pilates for herself! I was not interested in becoming a teacher. How wrong was I! Romana Kryzansowska was amazing as we all now, but I truly didn’t understand how lucky I was to be in the first group of teacher training at The Pilates Studio with her. I guess I was not ready for her yet! I finished my 6 months service at Dragos and I was done!

Life took me into other paths of teaching, but still not Pilates. I moved from concrete jungle of New York to the jungles of Phuket, Thailand. I started teaching Pilates a bit there in 1998, but they had no idea; “It did not make sense“ for them. My family and I moved again, this time, to Toledo Ohio! Yes, a bit different! Here, there was a Pilates studio, but oh boy, it was so different from my training with Romana! I could not recognize a single exercise! Not even the 100’s! Luckily the owner of the studio liked my Pilates and let me teach her what I knew and how I learned it! Later on, I would go visit my parents in Mexico and start teaching there. Yet again, I had no idea what kind of Pilates they were teaching down there! I can understand different styles, I even practiced contemporary Pilates for a couple of years, but what was taught down in Mexico was strange and confusing. My brain is wired for classical! It just makes more sense to me! And I realized how much I still needed to learn, so I started studying anatomy, taking private classes with different teachers, going to conferences; anything to expand my knowledge!

I opened my own center: Pilates Center of Las Vegas, and started traveling all over the world like Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, Brazil, France, Italy, and Chile to teach the basis of the classical Pilates method as I understand it! Also I am the owner of! I recently finished “The Work,” with Jay Grimes. I am still trying to understand this marvelous method that is so simple, yet so challenging. There is so much more to learn, and I love it! I am very excited for next year as I will start yet another journey with Kathy Ross-Nash… and yes… the journey just started….definitely “I am going more Joe”.

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel… If You Know How to Use It by Aubrey Johnson

Aubrey Johnson doing Pilates on Trapeze Table

If someone told you they re-invented the wheel because it didn’t do a good enough job, how would you respond? My response would be “I’m curious…how did the wheel fail you?” They might say,“The wheel would only spin some of the time I needed it to, so I added some widgets to make it better.” My response would be, “Did you ever consider that you might have misunderstood how the wheel was designed and intended to be used? Maybe you haven’t learned everything you possibly could about the wheel before you gave up on it.

This is the scenario that goes through my head when I read/hear experiences about how “Pilates couldn’t INSERT UNATTAINED GOAL HERE for me, so I made this up instead.” Thank you to those who share these experiences because it opens up the dire need for clarification on what we mean when we say Pilates.

I recently attended a workshop on Pilates for Scoliosis and also read an article on a Pilates newsletter that shed much light on how the name Pilates is perceived by many teachers/clients in the world today that are living with chronic issues. People truly believe that Pilates, in its original essence, can’t help them do the things they want to do. This is unfortunate, but this isn’t the real truth, it’s simply a misunderstanding. As a Pilates teacher, mentor, and teacher trainer, it tells me there aren’t enough of us out there being great at what we do and educating the masses on what Pilates actually is.What I mean by “being great at what we do”, is having the ability to change people’s bodies and minds for the better without having to change the equipment and/or make up random exercises.

What’s wrong with making up exercises if it helps someone accomplish something, you ask? Absolutely nothing at all, except that you’re confusing the masses on what Pilates actually is and what it CAN do. Anything you’re looking for is already built into the method, but most people don’t know where to look. If you throw other disciplines in with Pilates,it becomes watered down and the magic of this amazing method drowns in sorrow.If you decide you need to water it down instead of clearly break it down, it can’t be a surprise when your body doesn’t respond in the way you were hoping it to.Of course Pilates couldn’t fulfill its job for you because you didn’t dig deep enough. As Pilates teachers we need to choose the appropriate exercises, on the appropriate apparatus, in an appropriate progression,that will keep clients safe and provide the right amount of challenge needed for them so they can function better in their daily lives.

I agree from the Pilates newsletter I mentioned earlier that, “a vast majority of your Pilates session you are supine, prone, or seated.” But what happened to the kneeling and standing part? Have people been leaving it out? I have to believe that is the case when I read,“Pilates is sorely lacking in standing and balance work.”I must be doing a different kind of Pilates because I’ve never heard or experienced this. In fact, my clients would be perplexed or even amused by this statement.

A comment repeatedly made in multiple ways during the Scoliosis workshop I attended was, “…start by choosing the lengthening exercises for people with scoliosis.” Wait, I thought EVERY Pilates exercise exhibited length of the spine when done correctly? What am I missing? Then I realized I wasn’t missing anything within this method, but others clearly are. How about we educate the masses on this method, because it works if you have the proper training, tools, and experience to understand how to utilize it.

Moxie Mind & Body Pilates Studio

In Pilates we progress from lying, to seated, to kneeling, to standing while creating equal length and space in the spine. You may skip a step here or there… but you most certainly get clients standing and you most certainly challenge their balance, especially if they specifically need it due to a chronic disease or issue.The whole reason we progress clients from lying to standing is because it sets them up for success by working smart and efficiently. It’s rather genius to work in this manner because you let gravity and the equipment aid you in doing the work.

In the most remedial lessons you end with an entire standing sequence done at the wall. There are so many pieces of apparatus and exercises that are overlooked, under used, or many teachers don’t even know exist. How many of you know about the 2X4, the Swedish Bars, the standing leg springs at the end of the Cadillac, the standing series with the Long/Gondola Pole(s), the Foot Corrector, Centering on the Pedi-Pole, or the lunges across the floor? The exercises that challenge strength and balance on the High and Wunda Chair are endless!Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be “advanced” in your practice to use this equipment. Joe didn’t have “beginner level exercises” and “advanced level exercises”. He looked at your body, saw what you needed and that’s what you got. When your body was ready to progress you’d get something new, but only once you proved yourself with the initial exercises that were given. Joe made everyone feel like they were an Olympic athlete no matter how broken they may have been.

Until you get out there and FEEL what I’m talking about, you may assume I’m a cliché classical Pilates teacher stuck in a rut, unwilling to accept that change is the only constant in this world. I encourage you to come feel what I’ve been feeling. My door is ALWAYS open to those who are open to learning.Anyone can be a good teacher, but to be a great teacher we have to be able to choose the right exercises for the body in front of us. Because, “If the instrument is built and tuned properly, then you can play whatever you want on it.” – Jay Grimes

For those that would like to learn more about the vast amount of standing and balance work within the method, I encourage you to take a look at sites like Pilatesology or Pilates Anytime to wet your whistle. Here are a few videos I’d suggest:

Pilates Anytime
All 3 Wall Workouts #2672, #2673, #2674 – Kathi Ross-Nash
Mat Workout #2678- Kathi Ross-Nash
Double Trouble Foot #3186- Kathi Ross-Nash

Standing Arm Series A La Joe- Jay Grimes
Computer Refresher- Jay Grimes
Connection to the Jump Workshop Kathi Ross-Nash
Strong Flexible Feet- Andrea Maida (learn how to use the 2X4)
Pedi-Pole for Perfect Posture- Molly Niles Renshaw
Foot Corrector Basics- Junghee Wong

I believe with improved self-awareness comes the ability to understand our self from the inside out. When we truly know our self, we can learn to accept our self and when we accept our self we learn to love our self and others. Only then can we find true happiness and contentment in life. I love to work with open-minded people who are curious about finding ways to become a better version of them-selves.

Aubrey Johnson is the Owner and Director of Moxie Mind and Body Pilates Studio. She received her BA in Dance from Point Park University and her comprehensive Pilates certification from Power Pilates in NYC. She is a PMA certified teacher and Teacher Trainer for Power Pilates. She was a finalist in the 2017 Pilates Anytime Teacher Competition and has been featured in multiple videos as a student on Pilatesology as well as a model in“The Red Thread of Pilates The High Chair” by Kathryn Ross-Nash. Aubrey holds a Certificate in “The Work” and “Teaching The Work” from one of her mentors and first generation teachers, Jay Grimes. She has also completed Kathryn Ross-Nash’s program, The Red Thread. She is humbled and honored to continue to mentor and assist under Kathryn on a regular basis. Aubrey annually hosts trainings and workshops within her own studio and enjoys traveling to studios around the globe to share her passion for this work. She currently resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband Scott, 3 fuzzy fur children, and they are expecting their first child in a few short weeks. Contact information at

The Journey from Contemporary to Classical Pilates Studio w/ Monica Hoekstra

‘If you just teach exercises…are you a teacher or a conveyor belt? Don’t be a conveyor belt because they get stuck! After ten years you should realize that there is still so much more to learn’ (Quote from Eve Gentry).

And so it all began!

I have been serving the Charlotte, NC community, by way of teaching Pilates, since the inception of ABsolute Pilates in 2001. It has been quite the journey and many of you have asked the question as to what inspired the many changes, particularly the move from Contemporary to Classical Pilates. To answer that question, I need to take you back to my beginnings as a classically trained ballet dancer.

Since the age of 8 my parents encouraged me to take piano and ballet. The highlight of all this was time spent trying to perfect this fine art and then eventually to become a full time teacher, trainer and student of Pilates and movement.

Fast forward to Charlotte, NC almost 17 years ago. My husband and I arrived with two small children. By grace I was presented with the opportunity to be founder of ABsolute Pilates. In due time we became a licensed training center for Stott Pilates, which is headquartered in Toronto (the city I was born and raised).

My co-founder Catherine Tait, for whom I am eternally grateful, moved onto Michigan, which presented the opportunity to eventually become the sole owner of our studio. Always seeking to strive for the best, I developed ‘Core Barre’, which unfortunately was received as a competitive offering by Stott Pilates; consequently we parted ways in early  2012. Needless to say I felt a huge loss both professionally and personally. My identity had been associated with being a student, teacher and teacher trainer with this contemporary brand.

Having also lost the studio’s identity, I started searching for what the proper affiliation and orientation for the studio might be. I also felt a responsibility to our students and as well as our instructors that had been loyal to us for many years and had made teaching Pilates their livelihoods. So with greater invigoration I set out to rediscover the contrology principles and the authentic underlying system that Joseph Pilates originally taught. While visiting in Charleston, SC I took a few workshops from Chris Robinson, a very talented Romana’s Classical Pilates teacher. In my heart I knew that I had found what I had been looking for, but it took me over a year to build up the courage to follow through on what I knew to be true.

The inspiration to re-train in the classical system was the easy part as I had the opportunity to work with so many brilliant teachers that carried a direct lineage to Joseph Pilates and Romana. All of them were extremely welcoming, encouraging and graciously shared their knowledge, time and talents. Listening to Jay Grimes at a conference was eye opening and humbling. It made me see how rich and deep the work could be and how very little I really knew.

I realized that as my thought process changed, I also had to change my studio. I thought about quitting and reasoned with myself that I had been in the business long enough but by this point I felt it my responsibility to open the window to the traditional work. I wanted to share my newfound passion. Was it easy….heck NO!

What did that entail? Selling and changing a significant amount of equipment from Stott to Gratz, training and encouraging a re-training for the instructors of ABsolute Pilates and slowly transitioning the clients over to our more classical offerings.

My biggest supporter was my husband and he continued to help me forge ahead. I asked him what would happen if I failed…he said that if I failed I would at least have no regrets that I tried … and that if it were easy then everyone would do it. I tried to walk with integrity and grace and kept forging ahead with my education and personal Pilates practice to keep me grounded and move ahead. I lost more than half our teachers that chose not to re-educate but that had been loyal teachers to ABsolute Pilates for many years; I am thankful for their service and that they chose their own path.

In the meantime I finished my first classical Pilates bridge program with the New York Studio® Teacher Training Program, under the direction of Sean Gallagher and Cara Hazelton, that was ironically offered in Toronto – back where it all began.

In the past summer of 2017 I was honored to be accepted to the first Romana’s Pilates® bridge program under the direction of Sari Mejia-Santo and Daria Pace and certified with them early this past year – their community and group of teachers is truly of the elite and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing and talented teacher trainers in the world.

As for my biggest supporter, my husband – he takes regular Pilates lessons from me and has a deep respect for the traditional work. It is a privilege to teach him and to see how this brilliant system works for his body. As a former Ironman and a business man that has spent too many hours on the road, the best testimonial comes from his sincerity and appreciation when he says ‘I can’t tell you how much better I feel after doing a lesson…can I please do 3 lessons a week?’

Grateful for the journey. – Monica Hoekstra

Monica Hoekstra is the owner of ABsolute Pilates in Charlotte, NC, founded in 2001, and the creator and founder of Core Barre – Smart Movement®.

Monica Hoekstra is a Certified Romana’s Pilates® Instructor. She is also certified by the New York Pilates Studio® Certification Program and is a member of the Pilates Teachers Guild. Ms. Hoekstra also holds a full comprehensive certification by Balanced Body®, and formerly Stott Pilates® for which she was an Instructor Trainer for ten years.

In addition, Ms. Hoekstra is a Certified GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® Instructor. She credits this methodology for inspiring her creativity and adding diversity to her teaching. Lastly she is also Certified by the PMA® and ACE® (American Council on Exercise) and is a provider of continuing education.

My Pilates Journey by Clare Dunphy Hemani

my story begins…

Like most kids I experienced the world through my senses: touching, tasting, smelling and especially moving. I was a kid on the move all the time. My competitive swimming career began at age 7, summer and winter all the way through high school. In junior high, field hockey and lacrosse entered the picture ushering in not only a new phase of my development but taught me discipline, sportsmanship, self-respect, leadership and patience. This marked the beginning of my curiosity into self-mastery.

In high school, I recall making a conscious link between physical activity and how it magically and consistently balanced out my mind and teenage emotions. Every sport season brought new life lessons and I was thrilled to be varsity captain for several consecutive seasons. I was awarded a full athletic scholarship to Northeastern University for lacrosse, and it is probably no coincidence that I chose Physical Education as my major. Continue reading “My Pilates Journey by Clare Dunphy Hemani”

Pilates Journey by Alycea Ungaro

alycea ungaro pilates story

I was asked to contribute a story about my journey into Pilates for the benefit of new teachers or teachers considering a change in their methodology from Contemporary to Classical. I’ve drafted a dozen versions of inspirational fodder but in the end I think what’s important is what is going on in each of you. If you are reading this, you’ve felt an opening, a space for something new to land. Maybe you got a taste of something different or maybe you just never want to stop learning but something is tugging at you to fill your Pilates tank. That tug is the biggest thing in the room and although I’m happy to share a piece of my story – the only voice you should really be listening to, is that voice inside you.

Having said all of that, here is a bit about my Pilates travels and how I came to my own personal Pilates mindset.

This may surprise some of you who have followed my journey but Romana was actually not my first teacher.

In fact she wasn’t even my second teacher. That distinction went to Steve Giordano who ultimately sent me to Romana for training.
But my very first teacher was not Romana or even in Romana’s lineage – if that makes sense.
It was Carola Trier’s work that was my first experience with Pilates.

If you are a classical teacher it may be easy to see the similarities between Carola’s work and Romana’s. If you are a contemporary teacher these names might not mean much to you or if they do they may be lumped into the same block. But I am sharing this with you because I know how incredibly difficult change is. The challenge of transitioning from one way of doing things into a new way is not easy for most people. My transition from my first studio to a new studio was fraught with anxiety and discomfort.

In my original training I was used to beginning on the Cadillac. I worked with leg springs and the roll back bar and and paid extra attention to my lower body all in pursuit of a better ballet technique. However all of that changed when I migrated to a new place. I remember being frustrated so much so that I barked at my new teacher and asked why we were focusing on my upper body when all I really wanted to do was train my legs. Still though I continued to train and over time came to tolerate my lessons even though they were not what I believed I should be doing.

My changeover as I call it didn’t come for years. In some way I was disadvantaged in changing teachers and techniques. It wasn’t really my choice. I was a student at the School of American Ballet. They sent all their students to the same place. When they changed their choice of host – we all were shuttled over to the new Pilates location. New teachers, new technique, new everything. I wasn’t looking for a change. It was forced upon me and I was a teenager with strong opinions about right and wrong. I resisted.

It took four years before I met Romana herself and actually felt the work in a different way. But make no mistake – it wasn’t a whole new workout. I already had a solid classical technique by the time I landed on her deep blue reformer. What had changed… was me. I was ready. Finally. To be open to a new way of thinking and of receiving.

They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Are you ready?

Alycea Ungaro, NYC, owner of Real Pilates NYC

The Journey to Pilates Style – Interview with Bambi and Matthew Abernathy

Tell us about your professional background, prior to Pilates Style.

Bambi: Growing up, my parents published newspapers for a few professional football teams. My brother and sister and I would work at the office during the summer, and I always looked forward to it. I joined the family business, McMillen Communications, which had diversified and expanded to subscription fulfillment and more, right out of college. The publishing business is in my blood, and it’s a job that I have always loved—it’s never boring.

Matthew: I have always been involved in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Shortly after college, my father and I opened a wholesale food company, delivering portion steaks and fine meats to hotels, restaurants and other establishments. After a 10-year run, I decided to leave the company and pursue a culinary degree. I spent the next several years working in kitchens around Houston. With the birth of my two children, I decided to go back into my first love, sales and marketing. Continue reading “The Journey to Pilates Style – Interview with Bambi and Matthew Abernathy”

The Journey to Teaching Classical Pilates Mat Work

Hi, I’m Tracy Maurstad. I started my Pilates teaching career in 2006 when I got my BASI comprehensive teacher certification. It was one of the happiest days of my life when I started teaching. But I also continued studying. I was fascinated with Pilates and everything it had to offer. Clearly, it couldn’t all be contained in one certification or one place. This led me to the source. I read Joe’s book Return To Life which inspired me into my Classical certifications. Today I’m a multi-certified example of Going More Joe.

The first place many of us go to learn the Classical Mat work is Joseph Pilates’ book “Return to Life”. There’s some fantastic stuff in there. But it’s a small book, certainly not packed with information. And The Roll Over is the third exercise you do? Really? That doesn’t seem likely for the new client who just walked in, the 45-year old with a history of back pain who’s never worked out. No, you can’t just follow Joe’s order. So how do you start teaching that client the Classical Mat work? How do you gradually build their practice so The Roll Over is achievable? Continue reading “The Journey to Teaching Classical Pilates Mat Work”

The Journey from “Gym Junkie” to the World-Known Pilates Author and Instructor by Brooke Siler

This Pilates journey has been written by the well-known and hugely loved Brooke Siler – a Pilates author, instructor and owner of the re:AB Pilates studio and teacher training program. Brooke has retired from running a studio as well as the teacher training program in 2014 but she still has plenty of inspiration and wisdom to share with the Pilates teachers at any point of their teaching career.

Hello to you Sunni and all your many readers. Thank you so much for the opportunity to reach out and share my Pilates journey with those who may be interested.

I’m often asked how I found Pilates but in truth, Pilates found me. In 1994 I was working in a boutique gym in the west village of New York City while working on getting my foot in the ‘writing for magazines’ door. As a self-proclaimed ‘gym junkie’, I had seen and tried all the many exercise fads that came and went in the world of body-sculpting and aerobics, and was quite happy with the weights and cardio equipment I had grown up knowing so well. (Oh, but I did love my 80’s Jane Fonda too!) ;D
One unassuming day, large pieces of foreign gym equipment began coming through the front door and being set-up in front of me. I had never seen anything like them. The gym owner explained that these were apparatus for this “new”“Pilates method” that he thought might interest the members – I was intrigued.

Fast forward to me trying my first mat class; I was shocked and horrified by how challenging it was for me. Lol. I totally thought I was already super-fit and I could not understand how this, seemingly simple, class could best me. As a tear of frustration rolled down my cheek, during that Open Leg Rocker I could barely manage, I knew I needed to know everything about this Pilates and to understand it from the inside out. Soon after, I was referred uptown to Joseph Pilates’ protégée, Romana Kryzanowska, where I began a decade-long apprenticeship that would change my life in the best possible way.

At the time, 1994, not many people had heard of Pilates. I spent almost as much time pronouncing and explaining it to people as I did practicing the actual work. It certainly wasn’t about obtaining a certificate or even teaching as much as learning back then; and I can’t think of anything else in my life that I took to quite as quickly as Pilates. My first two years of apprenticeship I spent 5-6 hours a day with Romana; and I still couldn’t get enough.

When you find something that ignites a passion in you, changes your body, your mind, your life…you share it with as many people as you can! And that’s what began the teaching side of my Pilates journey. As I’m sure many of you do too, I talked about Pilates…a LOT! Friends got sick of hearing about it and wanted to try it for themselves. I slung a mat over my shoulder and went to their apartments to teach them what I was learning and loving so much. It didn’t take much; after one lesson they loved it too. Everyone I taught wanted more and more Pilates and I wanted to give it to them. But how?

Coincidentally, at the same time as my Pilates path was beginning, a long-term relationship with my live-in boyfriend was ending. I’m not sure the real relevance of what I’m about to tell you but I love this part so I’m going to tell you anyway. A short time after he moved out of our 600sf apartment and the finality of us grew, I strode my long, lithe Pilates body down the street to the hardware store wearing my stretch, pleather pants and stack-heeled boots (that I later taught in :0) and bought myself an electric Sawzall. If you don’t already know I’m sure you can guess by the name what this is, but if not, a quick Google search will give you a better idea. Now picture me, a six-foot tall redhead in pleather pants and heels returning home with a major power tool, plugging that puppy in and sawing off my ex-boyfriend’s side of the sofa! And that’s how I made room for my Pilates equipment.

Eventually my 300sf living room became too small for me and in 1997, with interest from friends who became partners, I was able to transition my business into a new studio we named re:AB Pilates – because sometimes your abs need rehab too. 😉 With one of my partners being a big model at the time, and the other another talented Pilates teacher, between us we helped create and ride the wave of Pilates that hit around the late nineties.

I was still up in the studio with Romana every week and now helping with the new wave of apprentices seeking to learn from Romana and her daughter Sari. I had always felt Romana’s teaching was very intuitive and easy to understand however I watched with interest as these new apprentices struggled to get the essence of the work. I had begun jotting down notes at home that I had hoped to compile into a manual or guide to help the apprentices better understand where Romana was coming from. As fate would have it, I received a phone call from a literary agent soon after, asking if I had ever considered writing a book. And so began my journey to writing The Pilates Body, which was published in 2000 and has been a blessing of epic proportion.

I followed The Pilates Body up with The Pilates Body Kit, an audio CD kit that had flash cards and beginner and intermediate mat workouts on audio CDs that WAY too many people had this to say about: “Why can’t I see the picture when I put the discs in my DVD player?” Oh dear. There are some things even Pilates can’t fix.

After that I wrote Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge; both a prequel and sequel to the original. Maybe it was with the new-found wisdom of having had my first baby, but I wanted to get across that Pilates was more than just something to be done in a gym or a studio with spandex and ballet barres on the walls, it was a methodology of movement that extended to every area of your life. Besides creating targeted Pilates mat routines, I included ways to incorporate Pilates into your regular gym workouts as well as working office furniture, garden tools and even your baby into a Pilates-inspired workout. Hey, why not?!

I think the most-asked question of me around 2006 was “when are you going to do a DVD?” (I guess this should’ve been expected seeing as how the CDs weren’t working in all those DVD players.) I had just had my second child and was much more interested in getting through a 5lb bag of peanut M&M’s than a workout at the time. Still, I signed on to do the DVD because it scared the bjeezus out of me to commit myself to the permanence of the video/dvd medium and I’m a big believer in facing fears. They asked if I could do a “weight loss for beginners” title, which, while fitting for my M&M lifestyle, challenged me to figure out how a ‘weighty’ beginner in mat Pilates might be able to safely, and without supervision, accomplish enough moves, with enough dynamic to actually lose weight. The answer to that was – they couldn’t! So I adapted. I created a standing workout to start the DVD and get heartrates up, and then transitioned them into a basic intermediate mat. I had also chosen some really great upbeat Latin music to be played along with the workout to inspire the pace. Unfortunately, when I received my copy, they had replaced my motivational musica with some sort of ambient spa sound that you might use to relax and unwind in a bath. The most common response in the reviews: “This DVD is too hard for a beginner.” #IAgree. Oh, and “The music sucks!” (I’m paraphrasing.)(And projecting.) Well, at least it’s safe.

And that was how the Element: Pilates Weight Loss For Beginners came to be.

Okay, we’re into the home stretch now – Sunni did you have any idea the can of worms you would open up when you asked me to “please find a tiny bit of time to write a blog post about you, and your Pilates journey”?? Yikes!

In 2012 I was asked to write a book for Women’s Health for their “BIG Book” series. Mine was appropriately entitled, The Women’s Health BIG Book of Pilates. Being that I had already written two books, a kit and a DVD about ways to learn and do the 34-plus mat exercises Joe Pilates prescribed, I wasn’t sure which direction to take this one. After looking back at my original book contract and seeing that any future books I might write needed to contain a certain high percentage of alternate content than the first book I knew I needed to get pretty creative. I decided to try and recreate a bit of the Pilates studio through the use of home equipment like balls and bands. I think I may have bought every therapeutic band and door clip on the market to try and create something similar to the support and resistance we experience on the apparatus. I got a great workout at home while developing the routines for this book and threw as much diversity into it as possible. In the end, I think it makes a phenomenal resource for teachers who teach mainly mat classes or teach one-on-one without the Pilates apparatus. It’s also great when traveling to places that don’t have access to Pilates. (Do those places even exist anymore?)

Throughout all the product production over the years, I was still running my studio re:AB. Or was it running me? I knew that I wanted – nay, needed – out many years earlier. But between wanting and getting, a huge a chasm had developed. I felt horrible guilt over the idea of letting down the, now, hundreds of clients and twenty employees that worked for me. To say nothing of the decade-old teacher training program I had established and the apprentices that were still finishing their hours. But my body and soul was saying ‘enough’. So in 2014 I closed re:AB and started the unfamiliar process of turning my care inward. We moved our family to the southern English coast (my husband is British) where we are all thriving by the seaside and I am learning how to balance my love of Pilates and teaching with the love of myself and my family.

And that book is still being written.