Archive for August, 2011:

Sitting cross legged

Do you have an answer for that often asked dinner party question, “if you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be?”  Over the years my answer has changed, with a few standby’s in my pocket; Audrey Hepburn because I admire her beauty and philanthropic work, and my Grandpa Lee, whom I never got to meet.  But today, if someone asked me that question my answer would have to be Joseph Pilates.  I’d like to thank him and ask him just a few of the million questions I have.  However I’ve heard he didn’t like to answer too many of them.

Lucky for me not all my questions have to go unanswered as there are a handful of people known today as the “elders”.  While many people studied with Joe and his wife Clara over the years, the elders are the ones who have continued to carry on Joe’s dream of integrating Pilates into people’s lives.  They all chose to pass along their knowledge and keep Pilates alive.  While  I never had the opportunity to talk with Joe or Clara, I feel fortunate to have found Pilates when I did as I’m not too far removed from the source.  Some of the elders have passed away, but some are still very much alive and here to learn from.

That is exactly what I did this past weekend at the Pilates conference I attended here in Los Angeles.  I finally got to meet Jay Grimes, one of the elder’s.  He lives in LA, but for one reason or another I had yet to meet him. It was a pretty exciting and informative weekend.  There’s something so magical about being in the presence of a person who was taught by and knew Joe.  I asked a few questions, got clarity on incorrect information I had heard over the years, and heard stories that were completely new to me.  I learned a lot, way too much to write in a blog.  I will however tell you the 5 things that stood out the most to me, that I didn’t know before:

1. In 1926 Joe picked the location for his gym, which was 5 blocks away from Madison Square Garden, because he wanted to be close to boxers.  I have always thought that one of the reason he picked that space was because George Balanchine of the New York City Ballet was in that building.  Balanchine didn’t even move to the U.S. until 1934, and NYCB was formed in 1948.

2. The double leg pull (also known as double leg stretch) is in every exercise you do in Pilates.  It incorporates a strong center and opposition (a two way stretch).  It seems pretty obvious now that it was pointed out to me, I just had never thought about it.

3. Jay Grimes never once heard an anatomy term come out of anyone’s mouth while he was at Joe and Clara’s studio.  Clara apparently would point to a person’s body part she wanted to be worked and said “this.”  When Jay told that story he said “this” with a German accent which sounded like “dis”.  I loved the description and reenactment.

4. You were responsible for knowing your own program, there was always supervising, just not hovering.  Again, I’m not surprised to hear this, just hadn’t before.  I was taught to do everything myself, like change my springs, put on and remove the box, and know my order.  But I was training to become a teacher very early on.  I tend to do too much for my clients, but I might go vintage and have the clients do more for themselves :-).

5. The 6 principles of Pilates, which I was taught to memorize the moment I stepped into my training over 8 years ago, were published and seen for the first time in a book in 1980, 13 years after Joe died.  While Joe wouldn’t know what the 6 principles are as he didn’t come up with them, Jay said they are still very valid.

I can’t wait for my next elder encounter!