Entries in Pilates History (24)
You’d think someone like Mary Bowen, a Pilates elder who is in demand to teach teachers around the world, would be done with the “learning” part of her 50-plus-year Pilates career by now. It’s just the opposite—one of the most inspiring things about her, and many others at the top of the field, is her never-ending thirst for more learning. Here she explains the importance of the many personal mentors she’s had over the years and why she’ll never stop being a mentee. Stay tuned for more on mentorship this month.
I have had many mentors in my 51 years in Pilates. For me, it all began in 1959 with visits to Joe and Clara Pilates twice a week for six and a half years. Joe and Clara have always remained alive in me. I came out of back pain with them, rapidly, and ate up the whole experience of being close in with their life commitment to total health, breath and their method of exercise. What Joe and Clara gave me was more than a mentorship. They gave me “a way of life” that freed my body, making it strong, flexible and enduring enough for any exploration and development I needed to undertake. Not knowing it at the time, it was turning me into a Pilates teacher myself, by 1975.
From there, I spent 7 years with Bob Seed, which underlined the experience of Joe and Clara, and then 7 years with Romana Kryzanowska, which expanded the movement repertoire for my body and cemented the importance of Pilates in my life, then 7 years with Kathy Grant, which instilled a kind of toughness into the work and yet a freedom to be creative in it at the same time, then 5 years with Bruce King, until he died, which was the closest to what is called “classical Pilates” and a great teacher of the value and lack of boredom in repetition.
With Bruce it was always the same way, the same forms in the same order. I was 50 when I started with him. I had the patience by then for his kind of quest for perfection through repetition. I could always find newness in it. Concurrent with Bruce and beyond his life span were 7 years with Jean Claude West, who had learned Pilates at my studio, Your Own Gym, in Northampton, Mass., and had gone on to study biomechanics and kinesiology at universities in New York City. Jean Claude was on the cutting edge of integrating Pilates with physical therapy techniques and knowledge. This expansion has continued deepening the experience of Pilates and the knowledge that one can attain as a teacher of Pilates. It has advanced the practice of Pilates for oneself and for the teaching of others. From 1995 and continuing into the present, my mentor is Christine Wright, a former professional dancer, student and gifted teacher of the body and how we can better live in it using Pilates as a fundamental grid. With my weekly lessons and my mentors I am just short of 80 and still coming into my body.
By Nicole Rogers
Carola Trier (1913-2000) was the first person to start a Contrology studio outside of Joseph Pilates’ own studio, and she did so with his blessing. Pilates elders like Kathy Grant and Lolita San Miguel started their Pilates training with Carola Trier. And yet, until now I knew little about her other than the fact that she was a contortionist. It turns out she was actually a roller-skating contortionist! This is one of many entertaining insights to be gained from the new DVD Carola Shares, by Jillian Hessel.
By Alycea Ungaro
Yes, it’s true; the Pilates technology you’ve been waiting for is about to be released. Pilates has come to the Wii, merging fitness and fun in the newest incarnation of mass-market health and wellness. Your teacher is none other than the delightful and engaging Daisy Fuentes.
Wait, what? Daisy Fuentes? Uh, ok. Why?
I knew Daisy Fuentes did Pilates but when did she become a teacher? Common sense dictates that she must have expanded her credentials and become a trained Pilates instructor. I mean the corporate bigwigs at Sega wouldn’t have dared to allow her to instruct what will be roughly, oh, I don’t know…millions of people for fear of injury. Hmmm…maybe not.
I’m thinking Daisy did not enroll in a certification course and log in hundreds of practice hours so that she could teach you the perfect form and proper execution of the Pilates method. I’m guessing she didn’t hit the books hard to learn human anatomy or the basics of exercise physiology either. [You can see snipets from the Wii Pilates program here.]
To be clear, I’m not really picking on Daisy here. I’m sure she’ll make do just fine. Maybe as good as Jane Fonda even, or the myriad other celebrities that suddenly become fitness experts overnight. Personally, I just like to believe that my teachers are really teachers and that the experts I let into my life are really experts. So far as I can tell, Daisy’s claim to fame here is…her fame.
Think for a moment about the people you learned the most from in your life. Your first grade teacher: not famous, I’m sure. A coach or dance teacher: similarly off the radar by media standards. A professor somewhere along the way? These people were educators. Trained not only in their discipline but also in the discipline of teaching. Teaching is a craft. A skill set not easily learned and one that is very difficult to master.
Legend has it that Joe Pilates was not a very good teacher. He was a remarkable inventor, an unparalleled innovator but none to impressive with his communication skills. By contrast, his wife Clara is touted as the real teacher at the original Pilates studio. Her gentle touch and soothing voice are recalled even today by her devoted students.
I’m happy that Pilates has come this far and that people worldwide will have the benefit of Pilates in their homes. It’s thrilling to see the growth of this method still soaring after all these years. And I guess that celebrities not only endorsing but now branding Pilates as their own is a hallmark of the method’s success. So what’s next?
Will Miley Cyrus launch a Teen-ilates DVD? Let’s hope not.
The profession of Pilates has deep roots in apprentice-style learning, and one teacher who was there in the early days is launching a new program to keep that tradition alive. Lolita San Miguel is kicking off her Pilates Master Mentor Program this month. It’s a 200-hour, two-year program open only to teachers who have completed a training program and have been teaching for at least three years.
Lolita, who has 50 years of Pilates experience, first apprenticed with Carola Trier in the late 1950s and then in the ’60s with Joseph and Clara Pilates, who granted her a certificate after an intensive 520-hour program. With her new program, Lolita aims to pass on what she learned from these pioneers, and what she’s continued to learn over the years. (She has gone through Polestar’s training program and can be spotted attending as many classes as she can at conferences every year.)
Lolita is keeping the groups small—no more than 12—and will meet with them for multi-day intensives six times in two years. Guest instructors will be invited to present, and Lolita will work with the group to refine their skills. “Pilates Masters must go far beyond mere competence, beyond certification, beyond knowing anatomy, the Pilates terminology, the exercises and being familiar with the equipment,” says Lolita. “They must undergo a specific type of training (as is done in the martial arts) and become an apprentice for a period to a Master with experiential wisdom.”
The first group, starting in January, is sold out, but spaces are still available in a group starting in February. Visit lolitapilates.com for more information.
Ron, Mary and Lolita
Ever had a client ask, “What are the differences between yoga and Pilates?” As you stammer out a hopefully intelligent-sounding answer, unconvinced even in your own mind as to the difference, you probably just hope the client doesn’t ask again!
You may have heard this joke: The difference between Pilates and yoga is that in yoga you close your eyes and think about god and in Pilates you keep your eyes open and think about your abs! And one guru said the purpose of yoga is to become more flexible so that you could sit comfortably to meditate. Yoga certainly is more than that.
I write this in trepidation of offending the beautiful yoga and Pilates practitioners around the world. I hope to distill some of the information about yoga and Pilates looking at some of the differences and similarities between them to help practitioners understand these popular forms of movement.
Top Story: A new concept in micro-focused spas has come to New York: pelvic fitness. While the idea behind Phit—which stands for “pelvic health integrated techniques”—might sound new (and uncomfortable) to some women, Pilates instructors already know the benefits of getting “in shape from the inside out.” But Dr. Lauri Romanzi’s services go beyond Kegel workouts—the board-certified gynecologist is also offering electrostimulation, nonsurgical labial contouring, vaginal tightening surgery and labiaplasty. I’ll stick with my Seated Legs exercises, thank you very much.
More Pilates-Related News
• Foam roller sales have doubled in the last few years.
• High-end hotels are adding Pilates to their offerings.
• First-generation teacher Ron Fletcher shares his thoughts on Pilates in The Guardian: “The trouble with this work, in general, is that people mistake it for an exercise regimen, and it’s not. It’s an art and it’s a science and it’s a study of movement.”
• A Brooklyn yoga instructor gives new meaning to “phoning it in.”
• An inspiring story about a disabled Pilates instructor
• Peak Pilates’ master trainer Colleen Glenn is profiled as one of Boulder’s “local health pros.
“Continuing Ed” is our regular look at workshops, programs and other methods of bodywork that can enhance your skills as a Pilates teacher.
No matter what you call them—Elders, First-Generation Teachers, Pilates Masters—there’s no denying the Pilates wisdom they’ve passed down through the years. We’re talking, of course, of the handful of people who studied directly with Joseph and Clara Pilates and have kept their methods and spirit alive by teaching others what they know. Some have past away and others are slowing down their teaching schedules due to age, but they each can be proud of their own unique legacies—without them, Pilates would’ve died with its namesake.
If you’re at all interested in connecting to your Pilates roots, we recommend checking out two exciting, upcoming workshops taught by Elders and some of their closest students. But act quickly, they’re both happening in July.
Even if you’re not into yoga, you might want to grab an OM-centric friend and check out Yoga, Inc., a documentary about the underbelly of the yoga industry, which is screening in San Francisco, New York and New Jersey this summer. The film, which was written, produced and directed by John Philp, takes an in-depth look at the Americanization of the ancient spiritual practice and interviews some of its major players.
Philp provided Pilates-Pro.com with a review copy, which I eagerly watched with a Pilates instructor friend. We were both struck by the parallels between what’s happening in the Pilates and yoga industries. The explosion in popularity of the two practices in the West has opened the door for capitalism to rear its head in ways that aren’t always consistent with the ideals of either one.
The similarities are many. In their early days, both disciplines got boosts from the celebrity set. Once it became clear there was money to be made, the intellectual property issues bubbled up—the Pilates industry dealt with its trademark demons a few years back; yoga’s version revolved around Bikram Choudhury’s copyright claim on his hot form of the practice. And each is dealing with whether to impose standards and ethical codes on its teachers, as well as the new phenomenon of chain studios. But yoga also has its unique issues—ever heard of “competitive yoga”? And what about the guy in New York who has a store selling products with the slogan “F*@& Yoga“on them?
The film—which includes interviews with yoga luminaries such as Rodney Yee, Trisha Lamb and the founders of YogaWorks—presents these issues fairly and with a good balance of humor and sensitivity. After all, it’s a complex topic. It’s not a bad thing to earn a living in the yoga or Pilates worlds, but it seems even things as pure as spirituality and fitness bring out the best and worst in a capitalistic society. Perhaps that’s why we need them so much.
Click here to learn more about upcoming Yoga, Inc. screenings, when to catch it on TV in Canada or how to purchase a copy.
Also, be on the lookout for Yoga, Inc., the book, coming in 2009.
Pilates has expanded around the world in the last few decades, and one place it’s certainly taken root is Australia. Pilates-Pro.com caught up with Donna Oliver, president of the Australian Pilates Method Association (APMA), by email to get the scoop on the Pilates landscape in the land down under. Read on to find out who brought it there and what the scene is like today.
Pilates-Pro.com: Can you describe the level of popularity of Pilates in Australia?
Donna Oliver: The Pilates industry in Australia has continued to grow since it came to our shores in the early 1980s. It has somewhat mirrored the pathway taken in the U.S. Initially, used as a tool with dancers for injury prevention and rehabilitation, its reputation grew and its benefits within the general population were accepted. Of course, then the fitness industry came aboard with group mat classes for the masses in the gymnasiums and health clubs.
In the early days Pilates studios were only to be found in the capital cities of each state and were attended by the “in the know” dancers and the more affluent client who could afford private sessions, but these days Pilates in all its forms can be found in most larger towns and even some smaller regional centers from the tropical north Queensland to the southern wilderness areas of Tasmania and the extraordinary western region of Perth.
Essentially, you can find expert Pilates tuition covering areas of fitness, rehab and sports conditioning. There are instructors catering to the very deconditioned, frail client to the elite athletes. But we all wear corks hanging from our hats and say “crikey” at the end of most sentences.….Sorry, not really!
With his democratic approach to fitness, it’s likely that Joseph Pilates would approve of today’s video-sharing technology if it meant more people would be able to enjoy the benefits of his exercise method. It’s a wonder, then, that only one short clip of him has made it to YouTube so far. You’ll find it buried among a smattering (about 3,700 at last count) of modern clips from around the world that include single exercise demos, short workouts, earnest explanations of the method and even Pilates bloopers. Hopefully more original Joe footage will find its way to YouTube eventually, but we’ll have to settle for Arm Circles for now. Enjoy!