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Showing posts categorized as “lifestyle matters.”

It’s the Height of Summer!

August 8, 2016

We're now officially in the thickest part of summer, and there is no better way to soak it in than to get outdoors. Everything slows down now, leaving you time to work on your fitness goals.

One great feature of Pilates Avatar is you can take the lessons with you anywhere. We're an audio program.  There’s no need to be cooped up inside a studio. With longer, warmer days, head outside and feel the grass between your toes as you perfect a pose. Pilates Avatar offers several workouts of varying lengths where all you need is a mat. Grab a matand your smartphone or tablet, and make your favorite park a pilates studio for the day. 

Summer is the time to rededicate yourself to fitness and set objectives for the remainder of the year. Pilates Avatar wants to support your goals. 

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Filed under: Lifestyle Matters,Pilates Avatar

Game Changers

July 1, 2015

Misty Copeland's promotion to Principle Dancer for the ABT - against all odds, starting late in the game, and with a fierce determination that all athletes have tasted - has inspired me today to hit my Pilates workout with a deeper sense of purpose.  I think of all her plies, passe's, and turns, practiced over and over again.  I think we Pilates lovers can relate.  I think of all the times we practice the Hundred, Teaser and the rest of the Pilates repertoire.  All that practice so almost like magic, without thinking about it, we move with economy, grace, and balance.  We start to hold ourselves noticably more regally.  We use our body to the greatest advantage, making the most of our strengths, counteracting its weaknesses, and correcting its imbalances.  This is Pilates:  Fusion of mind and body.  The paradox is that in order to produce an attention-free union of mind and body, we must constantly pay attention to our body while we are doing the movement.  And then we practice, practice, practice.  The magic doesn't just happen though, it's our "attention-paying" which is so vital that it is more important than any other single aspect of a movement.  Enter our Guiding Principles:

Concentrate on what you are doing with the entire body
Control every aspect of every movement – large motions & joint positions
Centering is the starting place and focal point
Flowing Movement outward from a strong center (Romana) not too fast or slow, not stiff or jerky
Precision of movement and precision of placement creates bodily fine tuning that carries over into everyday life as grace and economy of movement
Breathing full and deep in every exercise, properly coordinated with movement.  Breathe in on the point of effort, and out on return or relaxation.  Squeeze the breath out of your lungs during motions that squeeze everything tight, and inhale when you straighten up (ie. Spine Stretch) 

BUT it doesn't stop there!  The key is how we work inside the movement that matters.  It's like learning a new language of movement.  Enter the Game-Changers:

We find our center and our powerhouse in motion by drawing the abdominals in and up to make the distance between the lower abs and spine as small as possible.  No problem when we are lying down, but add it into each movement and it's a brand new world.

We find the posture of our head and neck in multiple postions without tensing our chest and shoulders. Lying down the point of contact to the mat should be somewhere near the base of the skull, producing length in the back of the neck (and strength in the front of the neck).  Now take it upright to sitting, standing and moving!  

We strengthen our necks by properly lifting our head off the mat in a way that stretches the back of the neck which helps anchor the spine into the mat (think Hundred and Ab Series) which translates into being able to hold out head higher all day long.

We distinguish the difference between relaxing and collapsing; the difference between relaxing and over-controlling or over tensing.  This stress-free movement is found by relaxing the muscles while maintaining enough tone to hold the position we want.  Think quads overtaking the job of other muscles.

We stretch our arms and legs without locking the elbows and knees.  We figure out how to reach the arms long from our shoulders and to stretch the feet long from the hips.  

We learn to sit up out of our hips.  Our chest is pulled up and our head is sliding up an imaginary pole so that our back is not arched, we can find an extra bit of straightness and uprightness that comes from lifting the lowest part of your abdomen, as if we are stretching our naval away from our hips.

We discover the cure for flaccid gluteal muscles, a chief culprit for poor posture and an ungraceful stride.  It is as simple as pressing the buttocks together as if squeezing a dime between them.  When standing up our thighs should turn slightly outward and the front of the pelvis is flat and open.  It works like a charm and beats incessant reps of large strenuous leg exercises which miss point.

We find a two-way stretch in all movements, reaching the arms from the lower back in one direction while reaching the legs from the lower back in the opposite direction.  

We roll and unroll the spine without jerking the body, one vertebrae at a time.  And if we are stiff, instead of cheating, we use our arms to help.

A famous composer once wrote:  Repetition is a form of change.  So we practice the same exercises day after day and discover that we are always finding our body - on new levels, with new depth and insight.

If you are looking for a way to supplement your lessons,  try my new program Pilates Avatar .  If you are a studio owner or manager, learn how you can bring this program to your studio!

Filed under: Business Matters,Lifestyle Matters,Movement Matters

Where’s Joe?

March 21, 2015

This is an article I wrote for PilatesIntel.com to be published in early April 2015.

I came to Pilates in (what I thought was) the “usual way”.  The year was 1995.  The place was Drago’s Gym in New York City.  Pilates was still beneath the radar in the US so most people had never even heard the word “Pilates”.  Fast forward 20 years, and we can see today the “usual” experience for becoming a Pilates teacher is quite different.  The world today is different.

I’ve been following the last few blogs from PilatesIntel.com and was not only impressed, but personally touched by how Brett Miller zeroed in on the importance of including Return to Life and Your Health (Joe Pilates’ books) as required reads during teacher training.  Maybe Brett will re-title his series to “Finding Joe…” 

I took for granted that Pilates educators would make the only books Joe Pilates penned a required reading.  I also took for granted how the history, real life stories from Romana, and the richness of Joe’s legacy shared through Romana and other teachers who studied with Joe impacted me and would be woven into the fabric of who I am as a teacher today.  Words can’t express what it was like to be around Romana and I am ever grateful for the layers of life lessons that filled my days under her mentorship.  Perhaps they can best be shared as stories.

One of my favorite stories, told over and over, was about how Joe ran his studio and how he introduced students to the method.  This story (and many others) helped shaped my philosophy about Pilates.

Students coming to Joe’s studio found a no nonsense atmosphere where the expectations were clear and studio policies strictly enforced.  For example, the men’s “uniform” was a pair of shorts with no shirt; women wore a dance leotard with (or without) tights.  Joe wanted to see how the body was working without the hindrance of unnecessary fabric.  There was no socializing and Joe made sure the studio was dedicated as a place to “work”.  You would never see people lounging on apparatus and chatting. 

Each person was expected to remember the exercises shown them, and be able to practice basically on their own.  Framed photo strips of the exercises hung at the back of the reformers for study and reference. When you showed a degree of mastery (and not until then) and Joe saw you were ready to learn more exercises, he would add onto your program.  He sometimes pulled over an easel which had a list of exercises written, and told you to come and get him when you arrived at a particular exercise.  At that point he would introduce a new exercise.  New exercises were like getting a gift.  And everyone learned his or her mat work!

New students would tell Joe all about their ailments, and Joe would nod and show interest (perhaps feign interest?) until they were finished speaking.  Then he would start them with the heart and soul exercises, now referred to in some schools as the introductory system.  Everyone got those exercises.  They were to be done in that order and they worked for everyone.  If an exercise needed to be omitted out for now, he would add it in later.  The point here is that Joe knew the work properly done, works!  And it works for everyone.  After a few sessions, students would come in and practice on their own, in a supervised setting, with Clara or whoever was teaching in the studio that day walking around to give an appropriate or well-needed push or pull.

Mat “classes” didn’t exist in Joe’s studio.  Mat classes were reserved for the dancers at Jacob’s Pillow or the teachers.  Your workout was a personal experience, a time dedicated to working on yourself to the best of your ability that day.  Joe ran a disciplined studio, he made you want to try your best, and you benefited by seeing real results.  It was simple.

My, oh my! The landscape sure has changed.  Where’s the work?  Where’s the discipline?  What’s happening to Joe’s lifetime of work? He was a genius of the body (Romana’s words).  Isn’t it fascinating how very same person who complains about their undisciplined children, are actually himself or herself undisciplined?  Proof that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.  They come in for a workout but where’s the “work”?  They don’t remember the exercises, the order, the transitions, the spring settings etc. 

But wait a minute… the blame needs to be shared with us, the teachers!  My questions is this:  are we opening the door for real learning and expecting our students to take ownership of their body and mind, or (sorry if I offend) are we making sure we set up a relationship with our “clients” to ensure they continue to “need” us so we can pay our rent?  It’s our job to help our students become more independent so they can be more self-reliant.  Let me illustrate this in a different way.  When a child is small we show them how to tie shoes, brush teeth, bathe etc. so they can do it for themselves, right?  Similarly, if we continue to change the springs, tell what exercise comes next, neglect to show the transitions, how can we expect our students to learn? Imagine tying your teenagers shoes?  We wouldn’t get anywhere as a society if we continued that type of behavior into their young adult life. 

We all get to decide what kind of teacher we want to be.  There are ample learning opportunities for us today, yet ultimately it’s up to us to cultivate ourselves into the type of teachers we want to be. 

Thank-you Brett Miller for allowing me to share my thoughts with your readers at PilatesIntel.com.  I hope it sparks some open, honest conversation and perhaps some more stories in the future for everyone to enjoy.

Filed under: Business Matters,Lifestyle Matters

Catch the Spirit

December 10, 2013

Early this fall, I was introduced (thanks Kathy Ross- Nash)  to a woman who is a real blessing in the Pilates community. Her work is creating history by documenting the teaching of classical Pilates through many talented teachers. I am excited 

to introduce Alisa Wyatt, founder of Pilatesology.com.  Alisa and I share a common philosophy in our mission to help people Age Strong with Pilates and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share the filming of my first few classes WHICH ARE BEING RELEASED TODAY!   On the birthday anniversary of Joe Pilates!

Happy Birthday Joe, this one is for you and for all the students and teachers who inspire me. Sharing the love of Pilates is an honor, privedge and joy!

I hope you enjoy my classes and the other fabulous teachers on the website. Happy Holidays and a Healthy New Year!  We are all connected to Joe in one way or another and our lineage brings us into the future as one family.  

In the interview below, Alisa takes us through the backstory of Pilatesology, sharing history and future aspirations for her work.

What was the genesis of Pilatesology? 

Alisa:  My Pilates journey began as a student who fell in love with the method so deeply I knew I wanted to take a teacher training program before I had even taken my first real lesson. I was there for all kinds of personal reasons and was lucky to begin in 1997 with Romana and her incredible team of teachers whose passion for Joe's original work was contagious.

Over the course of my apprenticeship with Romana I met and learned from people who made deep impressions on me including her daughter Sari Mejia Santo and Bob Liekens. I also got to work out with and observe others who were destined to be the next generation to carry on the work like Kathryn Ross Nash (who I will never forget gave me a brilliant tip on an exercise I was practicing while she was waiting for a workout with Romana), Brooke Siler (whose first book I relied on as much as my own notes), Moses Urbano (who lit up the studio with his fun and warmth), Brett Howard (who gave me my first lesson), Mari Winsor, Dorothee Vandewalle, Juanita Lopez, Cynthia Lochard, an amazing trio that Romana taught every week with Jerome Weinberg, Peter Fiasca and Tiziana Trovati (Tiziana earned the nickname 'Mighty Mouse' in this trio because, despite her tiny stature, she performed all the same exercises as the men with absolute ease) and so many more in my own seminar group. I took regular lessons at Alycea Ungaro's studio where I met more amazing instructors and when I was finished with teacher training I felt I had just begun learning so I quit my corporate job and started teaching.

The first mat class I taught, I took over from Jennifer Kries who was leaving the local gym in my NYC neighborhood to open her own studio. I continued taking lessons with Romana, Sari and Bob and found another student of Joe Pilates: Kathy Grant, who I went to twice a week at her studio at NYU and got to experience her wonderful assistant Blossom Leilani Crawford there. I've attended countless workshops and conferences and could write pages of names of teachers who inspire me and that is exactly how Pilatesology came into being. I've always been a connector; if I like someone or something, I want others to know about it (my corporate job was as a book Publicist) and Pilatesology is a means of bringing this method to the world.

My husband Jack is a photographer and we had been making videos for my clients to travel with when a tech-y friend of his told us we should be putting the videos on the internet. That seemed way over our heads until I reconnected with college friends who had just started Pilates Anytime. I loved what they were doing and envisioned a more specific site, focused on preserving and spreading the original method through workouts that regular people can enjoy and instructional videos for pros. Even our name is intended to recall the original work that Joe Pilates called Contrology.

What draws people to Pilatesology.com?

Alisa: What are they really excited about?
I think when people experience the depth of the work in the original Pilates style of teaching it's almost impossible to resist. Pilates might attract people initially because of how they want to look but they stay because of how it makes them feel, which is strong, powerful, flexible, in-control, and calm. Personally, I'm excited about preserving the classical method for future generations.

What makes Pilatesology unique?
I made a decision early on to limit our teachers to those who were either trained by Joe Pilates himself (ie. Jay Grimes) or  trained by Joe's protege, Romana Kryzanowska. There were many reasons behind this decision. I wished someone had recorded more of Joe and Romana teaching and realized we have an opportunity to create a living record, and I wanted to distinguish the work that I learned from Romana and pass it on in a form that is close to it's source. It's the basis of the method for me, like when you want to become a dancer, you study classical ballet in order to have the technical ability to be a modern dancer. We are inviting people in and trying to uphold the mission of the original work, to keep the original work alive and to make it accessible at the same time.

How do we reach people and develop a passion that is unstoppable?


Alisa:  Once people get bit by the Pilates bug, they can't stop. Aging strong is a huge topic, particularly preventing injury and overuse commonly occuring in media-hyped trendy training methods that beat the body up, instead of building the body up. The less anyone has to work out the more we can enjoy a great life. With wellness and health so big in our national interests it's a great time to refocus on wellness. It's not about putting on a Pilates 'suit' so that you 'look like you do Pilates' you actually want to get the deep strength that Pilates provides!  The discipline, the depth, the strength makes you feeI complete. 

It's a lifestyle choice that you make because it's a good way to live (like brushing your teeth) and creates a basis that makes the rest of your life easy. In a conversation we had, Clare made a comment that was absolutely on target. She said that people discipline their kids but often not themselves. When you come to Pilates you do it a certain way and you get to feel proud when you get it right.  it's thoughtful, disciplined, feeds your body, mind AND spirit because it requires you to be engaged! This is a huge appeal, it's not haphazard, it leads to a fulfilling method.

There's nothing wrong with starting because you want a tighter butt or flatter abs because in the end, you're going to end up with stronger character and that's far more enduring than how your jeans fit on any given day.

What is in the future for Pilatesology?

Alisa:  We are growing like crazy and as our classes and members become more diverse, our challenge is to make it easy to find what you're looking for within our site. We have more than 350 videos with 3 new ones added each week so beyond continuing to record the highest quality workouts and instructional videos for teachers we want to help people find answers to individual questions through weekly live 'office hours' with our teachers, live feeds of classes, and more.

What a great way to honor the birthday of Joe Pilates!

Filed under: Business Matters,Lifestyle Matters

Plugging In

November 16, 2013

Staying connected and plugging into your resources as a teacher, business owner and Pilates enthusiast is extremely powerful.  Take time out to enrich your practice, expand your horizons or just to connect and remember who you are in the work.  The bottom line is that we need each other.  A famous saying comes to mind:  Alone we go fast, together we go far.  I'd like to introduce you to Jennifer Deluca - an amazing teacher, mentor, and studio owner - we went through our teacher training together and recently reconnected at Romana's Memorial service. Here's a glimpse into our weekend reunion.

Filed under: Business Matters,Lifestyle Matters

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