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

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

  1. Such a brilliant article and am so very grateful I came across this reading. At a time when I’m thinking /feeling/ breathing much of what your article shares!
    Thank you so much Aubrey!

    Ianthe Basson
    Pilates Instructor and Studio Owner
    Cape Town
    South Africa

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