Joseph Pilates

Perform Better with Pilates


Whatever you do, you will perform better with Pilates.

I talk to people every day about the benefits of doing Pilates.

I mean, who doesn't want to be stronger, look better, feel better? Everyone I know loves the idea of a tighter tush, flatter abs, and leaner legs.

But those are just the obvious benefits. There are other "behind the scenes" benefits that increase your ability to perform well throughout your life.


Pilates is all about the breath. Joseph Pilates was asthmatic and had a hard time breathing, so he knew how detrimental it is to not breathe well. With a regular Pilates practice your lung capacity will increase, as will your ability to move and function.

perform better with pilates


Let's face it, balance is a huge issue for us bipeds, especially as we get older. Better balance leads to more activity and to more confidence. As we learn to navigate our bodies and the springs, balance improves and we become more confident and active movers.


Coordinated movement requires  an awareness of our bodies and parts in space, as well as enough strength and flexibility to use our bodies in specific ways towards specific goals.

For example, playing tennis requires that you be able to see what the other player is doing, judge where the ball will land, get to that spot and properly swing your racket to hit the ball back over the net. There is a lot going on!

In Pilates you are always aware of where your body is, what the parts are doing, and whether you are breathing or not. And sometimes you are balancing at the same time. It's a lot - a lot like life!

Whether you are training for sports, for a hiking trip, or simply to keep up with your kids and stay active, Pilates will help you do things better.

Try it!


Is Pilates Stunted?


Is Pilates Stunted?

I recently read a press release regarding London personal trainer James D'Silva and his new Garuda machine, which is slowly making its way to the US.

In the article, which discusses the reasoning behind the Garuda, D'Silva is quoted as saying,

Over the years I have found Pilates quite stunted, so I have come up with a contraption which amalgamates Pilates machines into one and adds some features. I found the whole repertoire quite boring after so many years and I thought I could take it somewhere else. It has worked really well.

I always wonder how anyone could find Pilates stunted. With the mat work and all of the apparatus (including some that almost no studios have anymore - like the baby arm chair, guillotine, and head harness) and props, there are literally thousands of possibilities.

In fact, the longer I do and teach Pilates, the more complex and varied it gets. There is just so much that you can do within the system of Contrology (that's what Joseph Pilates called it).

Here is the Garuda in action:


Making Pilates Consumer Friendly


Making Pilates consumer-friendly is not as difficult as it sounds. Offer high-quality, consistent, recognizable Pilates classes and sessions.

As I near my 50s and my third decade of teaching Pilates' Contrology, I am becoming more and more classical and conservative in my approach to Mr. Pilates work. Does that mean I never vary? Or that I never teach other exercises? Absolutely not! What it means is that:

  • I can differentiate for myself and my clients which exercises are Pilates and which aren't.
  • I teach the exercises developed by Joseph Pilates, generally in his order. If I teach a non-Pilates exercise, which I often do, I identify it as such. If I substitute an exercise in a series, skip an exercise, or go slightly out of order, I know that I am doing that and have good reasons why. Of course, I find myself doing that less and less.

Now, those of us in the fitness and pilates teaching worlds tend to get bored easily. We tend to always look for the newest, greatest, best new thing ever. The problem is, most Pilates consumers, like most consumers generally, like consistency. Even me.

Our customers don't want what is new. They want what works. Creativity, yes... but within what works.

This became clear to me recently when I took an advanced reformer class at a different studio, and there were very few recognizable pilates exercises in the class. Very little footwork, no 100s(!), no short spine stretch, no long stretches, no knee stretches, no teaser! What we did were a lot of interesting exercises at very high repetitions that happened to be done on a reformer - but they were not Pilates exercises. I was disappointed, because while I love creativity and variation, I do expect my advanced Pilates reformer repertoire to be relatively consistent and was looking forward to doing advanced work with a spotter and some correction of form.

You know, even though I don't routinely eat McDonald's fast food, I usually go at least once when in a different country. It's comforting to have a meal where you know exactly what you are going to get and what it will taste like, even with slight regional variations.

If I walk into a Pilates studio anywhere in the world, I also have some expectation of consistency. That is why I chose that studio as opposed to a yoga or zumba studio. There is an order and progression to the Pilates exercises. When that isn't apparent, the work is no longer Pilates, no matter how many reformers are in the room.

The biggest boutique brands who have lasted over a decade in the fitness world offer a consistent experience. Soul Cycle, Flywheel, Bikram Yoga, Exhale, Real Pilates (and its coming annex studios) are all great examples of this. See any instructor at any location and you will have a similar experience.

The best teachers will still shine, with a great eye, useful corrections, and an appropriately intense workout within the system.

In 2014, I strive as a Pilates teacher to be more real, more true to myself, my clients, and the fabulous exercise method that Joseph Pilates developed and I am lucky enough to teach.


Politics and Diversity In Pilates


Pilates has gotten way too political and divisive over the past 15 years. Can't we just get along?

About 15 years ago there was a huge and extremely divisive lawsuit in the Pilates community. A physical therapist who we call X bought the Pilates trademark, which had existed but was never actively protected, and started to sue people.

In fact, he sent "Cease and Desist" letters to every single Pilates teacher and studio he could find in the US. He claimed control and ownership of the Pilates work, and demanded that everyone either join him by re-certifying and paying fees, or risk being sued and shuttered.

Most of us responded by taking the word out of our marketing materials, instead using ungraceful terminology like, "exercise based on the work of Joseph Pilates".

While this was going on, there was a lot of anger and animosity among camps of Pilates teachers, many of whom felt very threatened (me included). It was a stressful time.

X lost the trademark in a class action lawsuit in 2000, when the term was upheld to be generic.

And we had about 12 blissful years of community rebuilding and reconnecting. Of meeting others from different backgrounds, working on different apparatus, and exploring.

Until one day the nasty letters and emails started to re-appear - this time directed at anyone who used any materials (photos, quotes, manuals) that X acquired when he bought the mark.

In one particular Pilates teacher forum on Facebook, his presence and animosity managed to cause such tension among a previously open and sharing group that many of us chose to leave, rather than be upset on a daily basis.

My thoughts: Pilates has evolved. There are fabulous teachers in all areas, and fabulous equipment developed. We have fought so long for connection. There is no reason for bitterness or division. Just teach, help others, and pass on good Pilates!

Pilates Vintage Video

Pilates teachers and clients

Sometimes we forget our roots in any discipline, and think that somehow we invented the wheel! I see it in new teachers all the time now, especially those trained out of the United States, since they are simply further removed via time and distance from Uncle Joe and his original work. That's why it is crucial to keep viewing the archival materials. Here is some video of Joe Pilates himself teaching Romana Kryzanowska. Enjoy!


What Is Real Pilates?

I often feel like I have strayed very far afield from teaching "Classical" Pilates. I rarely teach the traditional order of the exercises (although I do always follow it loosely as it makes sense and I know it in my bones), I incorporate other modalities such as traditional bodyweight exercises like push ups, planks, squats, and lunges along with kettlebells and TRX®. However, when I see some of what is out on the market as Pilates I realize that I haven't strayed far from the traditional path at all! In an age where you can be certified to teach Pilates on line and without ever seeing a real client or pilates studio, there is a lot of laughably bad Pilates around. Unlike accredited online universities, which offer the same curriculum as you would find on a college campus, remote Pilates education is NOT ideal. Teachers need to apprentice, have mentors, and really learn the work and how to apply it safely.

I do teach Real Pilates (at Real Pilates :))!

7 Things You Didn't Know About Pilates: Shape Magazine

I was looking at my Google news alert for "Pilates" this morning and saw this headline under "Web": 7 Things You Didn't Know About Pilates: Shape Magazine. It turned out to be a great little slideshow dispelling some Pilates myths and featuring my friend Alycea Ungaro of Real Pilates in Tribeca (where I teach when in the city). Great factoids like the original name of Pilates (Contrology) and that Pilates actually burns more fat longer than cardio! I encourage you to check out the piece and let me know what you think. Did you learn something new about Pilates?