Posts Tagged ‘joseph pilates’:

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!



The Pilates Cadillac is one of Joseph Pilates many inventions. I often hear from new clients that it looks like something that would be in a torture chamber, and I have to admit I thought that the first time I saw one. It’s a bed shaped apparatus surrounded by a metal frame, with springs, a trapeze, and leg straps hanging from it. Some of my most favorite Pilates exercises like monkey, leg springs, and airplane to name a few, are done on the Cadillac. There are over 500 exercises in the Pilates repertoire, which makes the workouts always fun and exciting. And many of those 500 can be done on the Cadillac.

Now let me explain how Volkswagens came into this conversation. At some point someone realized they could take the Cadillac, minus the top, bottom, and one side of the frame, and put it up against the wall (the tower is also known as a wall unit). It takes up less space, which allows studio owners to line a bunch up and offer a tower class. In turn the studio is able to offer a more affordable option besides privates. The trapeze and leg straps are the two things missing from the tower as they were attached to the top part of the frame that was removed. You may not be able to hang, do the flying monkey, or the candlestick in a class, but there is no lack of challenging and fun exercises. Wondering what those exercises are? Stop in a studio and maybe you’ll see one of the teachers or advanced clients playing around.

So what exactly is a Tower class and why would you want to go to one? A class incorporates Pilates mat work and Cadillac exercises on the tower apparatus. Mat work as far as I’m concerned is the hardest of the Pilates work. The apparatus helps you find your muscles and support your body so that you are able to get the greatest benefit from the Pilates Method. Tower class was not something that Joe did, so there is no specific order. A class could start with mat work and move on to the tower work, or a teacher might choose to mix them together. Either way a workout includes strengthening the core, increasing strength and flexibility, while also working on balance and control. You will utilize leg springs, arm springs, the push through bar, and the roll back bar to work all parts of your body, most importantly the powerhouse. This is great for anyone. For those of you who have taken a mat class but found it boring or found it hard to “feel” you muscles, this is a great option. Try one class and you’ll be hooked!

UpRise Classical Pilates, located at 929 Montana Ave in Santa Monica, CA, has a number of tower classes each week, as well as reformer/tower combo classes. Each teacher has his/her own style, and there is something to learn from everyone. I personally teach a tower class on Mondays at 1:30, a combo class on Wednesdays at noon as well as Fridays at 11:00 am. Stay tuned for a possible Saturday 10:00 am class starting mid-June. I hope to see you soon at a class so you can experience this exciting workout!


Single leg stretch

I made the decision to become a Pilates instructor because I wanted to help people. I fell in love with Pilates the moment I was introduced to it, and felt like I’d found the most ideal job when I made the decision to teach. I never could picture myself sitting behind a desk at a corporate job. With movement-based activities being a big part of my childhood, Pilates seemed to fit perfectly into my life. I truly felt that I had found my calling. What I didn’t expect were the thoughts that surfaced one day of “I’m only just a Pilates instructor.”

After eight years of teaching I found myself wanting more. I kept thinking to myself, “Am I doing enough?” “Am I making a difference?” After 20 sessions with a client who still was not able to set up for footwork, I would wonder, “Am I getting through?” “Are they learning anything from me?”

I took time to speak with instructors whom I respect to pick their brains on what it means to them to be a Pilates instructor. The talks helped momentarily, but in the end I still had the same feelings. I even toyed around with going back to school to get a master’s degree, but decided that I wouldn’t be going back for the right reasons.

Who knew that one comment from a student would change my outlook on what I do? Recently a client told me that teachers are teaching even when they don’t realize they are, and that I have been one of those teachers to her. She’s learning Pilates, yes, but because of my influence she’s also now getting massages, seeing a nutritionist and is very aware of changes she wants to make in her life. It was an “a-ha” moment for me as a Pilates instructor, realizing that what I do goes beyond the 60 minutes I spend with my clients. Our influence goes beyond the actual technique that we teach. By instilling the work of Joseph Pilates and his principles, we are instilling life-changing benefits in other ways as well.

Joseph Pilates wanted his work to be integrated into people’s lives, and it’s clear to me that he was talking about more than the actual act of doing the movements. We all know the benefits of having a strong core, as well as what to do to get the core strong. The principles that we use to guide our clients through a session can be applied to their day-to-day lives as well. In an hour we may teach them how to breathe, concentrate, get centered, find control, work on precision, or flow. Each and every one of these bleeds into life outside of their lesson. Think about the mom of three kids who comes for a lesson. The obvious reason she is exercising is to look good. But maybe she needs the hour for herself to get centered, to breathe or just flow. I strongly believe that when people take care of themselves they are better prepared to care for others. So maybe my client after 20 sessions has no idea how to set up for footwork. That’s OK because I do know that she feels great after an hour of Pilates.

There’s also the client who, because Pilates starts to make her feel so good, wants to continue down that path. She may seek out ways to do that and look to you as her teacher for guidance. This is what happened to my client, and how in turn she told me I was her teacher even when I didn’t realize I was. Because of the path I have chosen to go down, which has been very influenced by my experience as a Pilates instructor, I inadvertently helped guide her down a healthier path. I was very aware of the information I was giving her, but never thought what that actually meant.

I am very grateful for this “a-ha” moment and that I realized that we, as Pilates teachers, are in a position to pass along this amazing methodology and what goes along with it. I have made decisions in my life that propelled me down a path I didn’t necessarily see for myself, but I say this in the most positive way. I am very lucky to be in the position that I am as a teacher. I wouldn’t change it for anything.