Posts Tagged ‘Pilates’:

Holiday season is quickly approaching. That means it’s time to pull out those cocktail dresses and festive tops. This 10-minute workout will help you get those cocktail party arms that you’ve always wanted, while also working your abs, butt, and legs. You only need a mat or towel and 3-5 pound hand weights. If you don’t have hand weights, grab some canned vegetables or bottled water. Go through the series two times, aiming for 3 non-consecutive days, a week.

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1. Forearm Plank

To do:

a. Start by getting onto your forearms and knees

b. Make a fist with one hand, and clasp the other hand around it

c. Extend your legs back to get yourself into a plank, keep legs together, shoulders over elbows, and heels over toes (as shown in photo)

Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute

Tips:

Press into your forearms to prevent yourself from sinking towards the floor, and simultaneously pull your heart towards the wall in front of you

Work your pubic bone towards your forehead to engage your abs and protect your lower back

Press backs of thighs together, and make sure they don’t sink to the floor

Think of your body being pulled in two directions with your head going one way and your heels the other

Modification:

Do with your knees down

Challenge:

Hover one leg off mat for 15 seconds, then switch to other leg for 15 seconds

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2. Bridge with tricep extension

To do:

a. Lie on mat, knees bent, legs shoulder-width apart and feet flat

b. With a weight in each hand and palms facing one another, extend your arms to the ceiling

c. Lift hips to create a straight line from knees to chest (as shown in photo)

d. Bend and straighten elbows

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Keep chest open

Imagine holding a little beach ball between the inner thighs to keep energy there

Make sure elbows are reaching up to the ceiling when the arms are bent

Reach the tailbone towards the heels and pubic bone towards the head to keep the core active

Modification:

Keep butt down

Challenge:

After last rep bend elbows to 90 degrees (forearms parallel to ceiling), with butt still lifted, hold for 30 seconds

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3. Bicep curl

To do:

a. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, while holding a weight in each hand, arms long by your side, shoulders down and back, and palms facing out (as shown in photo)

b. Bend elbows to bring the weights to your shoulders, then slowly lower to start position

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Keep elbows glued into ribs

Keep shoulders on your back to isolate the biceps

Imagine a corset around your waist to engage the abs

Gaze forward and stand tall

Challenge:

After you complete your reps, hold the forearms parallel to the floor for 10 seconds

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4. Tricep and shoulder swing

To do:

a. Stand with legs together, a weight in each hand, raise arms to shoulder height, palms face one another

b. Bend knees in to a squat, hinge forward, and press arms back so that palms face the ceiling, pulse arms up 3 times (as shown in photo)

c. Return to standing bringing arms to start position

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Keep shoulders down and back

Keep spine long when you hinge forward

Picture a corset around your waist to keep your abs engaged

Make sure palms face up to ceiling when pulsing

Challenge:

As you return to standing bringing your arms to start position, as draw one knee into your chest

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5. Lunge with twist and bicep curl

To do:

a. Stand tall with a weight in each hand, raise arms to shoulder height, palms face one another

b. Lunge forward with right leg, twist torso to the right, bend elbows (as shown in photo without the bent elbows)

c. Extend arms, untwist torso, step back to meet left leg while keeping arms raised

Repeat 8-10 times, switch sides and repeat

Tips:

Keep shoulders down and back

Press through the heel of the forward lunging leg to step back

Twist from ribcage, making sure to keep arms in line with shoulders

Modifications:

Lower arms a little if shoulders are tight

Take out the twist

flye-26. Bent Over Flye

To do:

a. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart and a weight in each hand

b. Bend knees and hinge torso forward from the hips, keeping weight in heels

c. With a slight bend in your arms, lift them up to shoulder height, lower with control (as shown in photo)

Repeat 8-10 times

Tips:

Focus on the back-side of arms and mid-upper back when doing the work

Keep shoulders on back

Picture a corset around your waist to remind you to keep

abs engaged

Make sure you can see your toes and watch that the knees track over second toe

Challenge:

Add an extra set of 10 pulses at the top of the last repetition before you lower arms back down

 

I’m happy to announce that I’ve joined forces with Andrea Speir, a talented and seasoned Pilates instructor, to bring you The Pilates Fix.  We know Pilates can be expensive, so we wanted to make it accessible to everyone. The workouts will be available on our Youtube channel, either with Andrea or myself.

Every week we will bring you classical Pilates workouts with a modern twist. Together we have almost 20 years of teaching experience, have worked in top Los Angeles gyms, and hold 600-hour classical Pilates certifications.  We will give you well rounded workouts and exercise tips to help you feel good and look good.

If you enjoy the workouts, please forward them on to your friends. And let us know what you would like to see on The Pilates Fix in the future.  Enjoy!

 

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Curious what I have to say with all things Pilates related including exercise ideas?  Then check out  Pilates Style.

On Pravassa.com, a healthy travel website, you can check out my reviews for Los Angeles based classes and restaurant as well as wellness posts.

MindBodyGreen offers a diverse collection of articles on all things relating to living a healthier and happier life.

Remember to check back often as I contribute every few weeks.

 

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I recently had the chance to speak with Mika Street, owner of Uptown Pilates in NYC and Sag Harbor.  She filled me in on why she loves Pilates, what brought her from New York City to the Hamptons, and why Sag Harbor should be your next vacation spot.  Now I wish I had planned a trip there this summer!

How long have you had your studio in Sag Harbor and what made you choose opening a studio there?

I opened Uptown Pilates Sag Harbor in the summer of 2010. It was in response to years of clients requesting that the studio have a presence in the Hamptons. Sag Harbor was a natural choice because it is the most conveniently located and I personally love the town!

How is running a studio there different than the studios you run in NYC?  And is the clientele different between the two places?

The studio out east has a very casual vibe. Although clients can expect the same level of service, there is a fresh off the beach feel. Clients often come straight from swimming in the ocean with sand still in their hair and mellow music can often be heard when clients request it.

How many teachers do you have on staff, and what kind of Pilates do they teach?

During season we have four full time instructors. They are all classically trained either from Romana’s or from the Boulder Center. Out of season we have one full time instructor.

What makes your studio stand out among other studios in the area?

Uptown Pilates worked hard to earn our clients vote of Best Pilates Studio in NYC for four years in a row! The same dedication to the clients that earned us that reputation is what sets us apart from our competition in Sag Harbor as well.

Why do you love Pilates so much?  What about it do you think draws people towards it?

I love Pilates because you can never conquer it! The stronger you get the harder the practice gets – so you can never get bored with it. I also love the way my body feels after a session!

What advice do you have for someone looking to get into Pilates?

Research the studio and instructor. There is a tremendous difference today in teaching styles and you want to be sure that you work with someone who went through an apprentice program that was at least 600 hours. I also advise committing to at least three lessons. It is hard to wrap your brain around the potential benefits of Pilates in just one session.

Do you have any stories about clients who have transformed either physically or mentally, in a positive way, because of Pilates?

Oh for sure. Countless! One of the best parts of my job is listening to clients share their many stories of how Pilates has transformed their bodies and minds. I wouldn’t know where to start in terms of sharing them!

If someone is trying to decide on a vacation spot, why would you recommend Sag Harbor, besides the amazing Pilates of course?

Ha, of course the Pilates! Sag Harbor is a gem in the Hamptons! It is such a charming, casual and centrally located town with the best restaurants, farmers market and Main Street in all of the Hamptons!

If you could open another studio anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Bali – winter 2013! Jokes aside, probably Santa Monica.

What is the best way for someone to contact you and schedule an appointment?

For Sag Harbor bookings – 631-725-5994 or uptownpilatessag@gmail.com. Or directly through our website www.uptownpilates.com

 

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Last summer I took a Pilates workshop with Jay Grimes, one of the elders. Amidst all the stories and information, what stuck out most to me was when he told us that if you could truly understand the double leg pull (a.k.a double leg stretch), one of the exercises in the series of five, than you fully understand Pilates. Why, he asked? Because it’s in every exercise you do in Pilates. It incorporates a strong center, and opposition.

Everyone knows that one of the benefits of Pilates is a stronger core. Most people do Pilates for that exact reason. But opposition is like the middle child, often forgotten. Can you guess where I fall in my family order? But I don’t think I’m any less important, and neither is opposition. It’s what will help lengthen your body, and length can be your best friend. Just ask anyone who struggles with back problems.

In another workshop I took recently, the presenter focused on the importance of getting grounded through Pilates. She made the point that you must focus on the placement of your clients feet, because the more supported you are at the base of your body, the more length you can get all the way up. With the length you achieve through opposition, you decompress the spine. That’s why many people say they feel lighter after their Pilates session.

It’s not enough to just cue opposition. Look to see that your client has equal weight on the big and little toe knuckle, as well as on the inside and outside of the heel. This applies to when someone is standing, sitting, or inverted. While you bring awareness to the evenness of your clients feet, make sure their muscles are working the opposite direction, up towards the crown of their head. I like to tell people to visualize stirrups under their arches that work their way up the inside and outside of their legs, pulling their muscles up. Don’t forget the importance of grounding the feet at the same time.

In an inversion, you still want the same emphasis. If your feet are in straps, work to make sure there’s equal weight on all four points of your feet. Since you’re working against gravity, you have to put a little more energy into it. When I’m in an inversion, I pretend I’m standing on the ground and apply all the same principles. Your goal is still opposition. Ground your feet while you work the muscles up towards the crown of your head.

People often ask me if Pilates will make them taller. Clearly it can’t make your bones grow. However, if you strengthen your core and work in opposition, you will gain an inch or two. Truly understanding the double leg pull (stretch) is not only the key to understanding Pilates, but also the key to being taller. Looking to add a few inches? Head to a Pilates lesson.

 

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Do you find it challenging to be inspired as a Pilates teacher? When I was going through my Pilates certification program, I wasn’t sure I’d make it out the other end successfully. There were moments that I totally doubted my ability, especially after a lesson with a teacher who I admired and respected. Each one was unique, yet the same. As they say in Thailand, “same same but different”. They were all knowledgeable, challenging, present, and passionate about Pilates. In those moments of doubt, I couldn’t imagine being like them. However, they became my inspiration for the teacher I would strive to be.

In order to get there, I realized a few things. To increase my knowledge, I would have to take lessons on a regular basis because if you don’t know how an exercise feels in your body, it’s very challenging to teach it successfully to someone else. A co-worker told me that Romana used to say “you teach a body from you own body.”

Along with lessons I knew I’d need to seek out continuing education courses as you can only learn so much in 9 months. And I began to teach as much as I could for practice. Bob Liekens, one of my mentors, says that the real learning begins once your certified. There is no better way to become familiar with bodies than working with them. Studying anatomy won’t hurt either.

My teachers all managed to challenge me in a different way. Some moved me at a quick pace, while others were a bit more deliberate. They all had the ability to make slight adjustments that would drastically change how an exercise felt. No matter how they chose to teach the exercises, they were all very present. Nothing seemed to distract them, no chit chat was allowed, and there was always a plan. Most of all, it was so apparent to me how passionate they all were about what they did. I always left with a deeper appreciation of the method.

While my passion for Pilates has never gone away, my love for it has slipped at times. But like any relationship, I’m always able to find my way back. It takes work, and effort though. I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping up with your own Pilates lessons. Make appointments and put them in your calendar. One lesson will give you ideas that could last weeks. If you think your clients are bored, it’s usually because you are bored. After your lesson, jot down some notes about new things you did. I have pages of notes I’ve taken since my certification 9 years ago. Even as a teacher trainer, I still do it.

Inspiration is all around you, in the teachers you take lessons from, and even the clients you work with. On days you feel less inspired, think about the teachers who helped lead you to Pilates. You chose this path for a reason. Remember that inspiration is endless.

 

kristen4pilates-resized-251“I AM a purist. I swear.” I’m quoting my good friend Michelle Fama, co-owner of Core Pilates NYC, as those were pretty much the exact words I was thinking of using to start this post. I swear! Great minds think alike I guess.

While I can’t speak for Michelle, my reason for swearing I’m a purist is because when it comes to Pilates, that’s how I’ve always seen myself. So when Michelle recently asked me to consult with her on the topic of a new class they offer at their studio, Core 30/30 (similar to a class I teach, Combo Class), I started thinking about the evolution of my teaching and the future of Pilates.

Someone once told me when you are learning something new you first memorize, then imitate those you admire, and finally come into your own. I think I stayed in the imitating world for a while doing everything exactly how I learned it and not really critically thinking. I was worried the Pilates Police (not real in case you were wondering) would come after me if I left out an exercise, or started with leg springs instead of footwork on the reformer.

In time, I began to loosen up a bit. I tend to live in such a black and white world but learned over the years that Pilates is far from black and white. I realized that the Pilates Police weren’t coming after me, and that it’s okay to step out of the box while staying true to the Pilates principles. In reality, in order to survive in this industry, stepping out of the box has become necessary. It’s still something I fight. But we live in a society with lots of choices, constant change, and innovation.

One change I’ve noticed since getting certified in 2003, is the growing number of group apparatus classes being offered. One contribution to this was most likely the economy taking a nose dive in 2007. People needed to come up with creative ways to get and maintain business . There are so many types of classes to choose from whether they be pure Pilates classes or a hybrid of some kind. They range from more classical reformer and tower classes, to jump-board classes that offer cardio, to Pilates Plus type classes.

Is this just a phase or the beginning of something new? Most likely these classes are here to stay. And in another 10 years, I’m sure there will be new trends to talk about in the Pilates world. My guess is even then I’ll still consider myself a purist. While I’m all for making Pilates accessible to people, because at the end of the day I want everyone exercising, I will never compromise myself as a teacher just to be competitive. A bold statement I know, especially considering what I’ve been talking about. But at my core I believe in the classical method.

Trends come and go, but solid teachers are hard to find. So I will continue to do what I can to make my classes fresh and fun, just don’t expect to be jumping from a trampoline onto the reformer and back.

 

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The other day I drove past a DirectTV van and thought, “I can’t wait to get cable again.” But then something strange happened as I quickly found myself thinking, “or do I?” For this to make any sense, I should give you a little history with my relationship to tv. Forever, I was the one people would ask what shows to watch and when they were on. My sister at one point even nicknamed me, TVguide. I couldn’t really take offense to it since it was true. I knew when everything, or almost everything, was on. When I didn’t have anything to do, or if I wanted to procrastinate, tv was my go to. So it’s been a bit of a surprise to people who know me, and to myself, that I’ve gone without cable for over a year now. While I’d like to say it was a conscious choice to cut cable out of my life, that’s not really how it’s gone down, at least not until recently.

After living in a house with cable (over 500 channels) that the landlord paid for, I moved into an apartment with a stranger. She wasn’t willing to split cable, which was fine, and I knew the day I moved in that I wouldn’t last long there, which, I didn’t. So I found a great apartment to live in alone, but I had to make some sacrifices for a while, cable being one of them. To be fair, it’s not that I don’t watch any shows at all. I do watch a bit on my computer as well as on my television, through Hulu Plus. But it’s not the same experience, and because of that I’ve found that there are many shows I can live without. Shows I now consider fillers.

What I’ve come to realize, is without all those filler shows, I have a lot more time on my hands. And with all that time I’ve become much more productive. In the past year I’ve read “Anna Karenina,” “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest,” “Wuthering Heights,” “The Help,” “The Paris Wife,” and “The Glass Castle”.  All books I would recommend by the way. Along with reading I’ve become more productive than I’ve ever been with work. I’ve been able to put more focus into the Pilates teacher training I’m involved with. And probably most importantly I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. One thing being that when I didn’t want to deal, I used to just plop myself on my couch, grab the remote, turn on cable, and turn off my mind.

While the decision of cutting out cable may not have initially been what I wanted, it turned out to be what I needed. Now when I don’t want to deal, I have to because there is nothing to distract me. I used to find comfort in watching hours of tv, and now I feel like I’m wasting my time. Something inside me has shifted. Will I ever get cable again? Probably, but I have a feeling it will be a while. I’m enjoying this sense of accomplishment too much right now. Never in a million years did I think I would choose to not have cable.

 

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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!

 

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“In my world, in my vision, the hero always defeats the villain, the boy always gets the girl, and cancer is no more.” Laura Ziskin (1950-2011).

When I was younger I may have been unsure about many things, but one thing I was sure about was that I wanted to be someone who made a difference, who inspired people, who got things done. I aspired to be someone like Laura Ziskin. She was a woman who exuded inspiration, and a fighter like no one else I have ever known. Even at her sickest I felt like she would be around for a long time. Maybe that was naïve of me, but it’s what I believed. She had endless determination in everything that she did. Laura’s daughter Julia said it best, “Cancer f-d with the wrong woman.” Even though Laura died following a 7-year battle with breast cancer, she has set the groundwork for great things to come.  The cancer community is lucky to have had Laura on their side.

I was fortunate to have met Laura 3 years ago through her husband Alvin, whom I teach Pilates to. And every now and then she would sneak in a lesson. I did not spend a lot of time with Laura, however Alvin was so proud of her, as he should be, and shared stories about her accomplishments. While I was impressed to hear she produced movies like “Spiderman“ all 3 of them, “Pretty Woman”, and “As Good As It Gets,” what stood out most to me was her involvement with Stand Up To Cancer, a non-profit she co-founded. Their goal is to encourage collaboration, not competition, with the best and brightest in the cancer community. As Laura said in a CNN interview last year “the problem with cancer research in this country is that the scientists are siloed, and the system promotes competition, not collaboration…Stand Up To Cancer’s funding model mandates that the scientists collaborate, and compete against the disease instead of each other.”

Through knowing Laura I learned that 1500 people a day die of cancer. And 1 in every 2 men and 1 in every 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer, which means that either you or someone you know will be affected by the disease. Realizing something different needed to be done, Laura drew from her producing experience to help her with the biggest fight of her life. With her ability to bring the right people together, make a plan and see it through, and knowing what needed to be done to raise money, Laura helped organize two major fundraising telecasts for SU2C that aired in 2008 and 2010. The star studded events raised over $180 million combined. And as long as research continues, so must funding. So please visit the Stand Up To Cancer site to learn more about the organization and consider donating if you can. Every little bit helps.

Laura may have left this world too soon, but she has left an imprint that no one can ever erase.  I have only touched on one part of who Laura was as it’s the part that impacted me the most. However if it’s not obvious from how I spoke about her, there is so much more to know. I suggest googling her, and be prepared to be inspired.

I WROTE THIS FOR LAURA, AND I STAND UP TO CANCER.