Method or madness?


I am a professional Pilates instructor which means I operate in world where exercise fads change as quickly as the clothes we take on and off our backs. Back in the day there was Jazzercise. Then came Tae-bo (I admit to being sucked into that one grunting and punching in a carpeted room that reeked like prespiration). Followed by the likes of 8 Minute Abs, Buns of Steel, and of course Suzanne Somers’ Thighmaster. Today we bow at the altar of Soul-Cycle, Physique 57, or Tracy Anderson. We fuel the fad like a flame by stoking it with our demand to have the perfect body- and right now! So when this ‘new’ thing (Pi-LOTTS?) enters the scene we roll our eyes back in our head with doubt. What can Pilates do for me that all the other fads could not?

Although many uninformed self-proclaimed fitness buffs merge it with all the other flash in the pan exercise regimes, Pilates is not a fad. It is actually older than most of the originators of these so called “methods”. Pilates began in 1914, with Joseph Pilates who was born with various ailments such as Rickets and Asthma, but had a penchant for anatomy and health. He developed his system of body balancing called “Contrology” while in a WWI internment camp. When he immigrated to the states in 1926 he opened the first Pilates studio here in NYC. Joe’s philosophy was to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. This creates a healthy body in and out with a supple spine, increased circulation and breathing capacity, as well as mental stamina and alertness. Pilates leaves it’s impression on all areas of the practitioners life.

Today, before my session with Bob Leikens, we got to talking about this fad foolishness (It was peaked by my interest in what he thought of Power Pilates’ new ‘Beyond Barre’ classes). “I just don’t understand why these kids are so crazy over this?”, he muttered in his thick accent. “If you want to do ballet, take a ballet class! People these days have the attention span of a fly. They get bored, so they try to create, create, create these watered down classes. If they’re bored it’s because they’re not focusing, distracted and just want the results without doing all the work.” I can certainly see his point. While I like to dabble in trendy calisthenics, I never stray long and always seem to make my way back to deeper techniques like Pilates or yoga. Does that mean that a true method has ancestry with deep roots that can lead you places you never thought you’d go?

What is a method anyway? According to Wikipedia a method can be defined as- ‘a systematic and orderly procedure or process for attaining some objective.’ Though there is much written about the man himself, there is hardly anything in writing about the challenges he must have faced constructing his method and what he was confronted with in it’s inception. What we do know is that he poured himself into anatomy and physiology books, watched the movement of animals for hours, and practiced various disciplines himself including yoga, boxing, and gymnastics. His commitment to well-being went farther then a 6-pack and a tight bum- it was complete healthiness. Trial and error lead way to a lifetime of practitioners and lives transformed.

So, as Seth Godin posted in his blog the other day, quoting Sarah Jones, “the market has become a swarm of fleas” or “Un essaim de puces” in french. ‘Short attention spans, flitting from place to place, a hit and run culture.’ When you practice a true method it’s results are cumulative not waning. The depth for progress is limitless with the road leading you there full of obstacles and surprises.

Come and join my team at FORM Pilates Union Square and learn the method for yourself! We are a fully equipped boutique studio in the heart of NYC with a unique way of bringing the joy of Pilates to you. Find out how FORM works or email studio [at] formpilates [dot] com our Pilates Concierge for more info.

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Don’t kill yourself.


Jamie Graham putting me through my paces

In my workouts, I often come upon an exercise that I find particularly challenging. My legs are shaking, my abs are popping out (when they should be staying in), sweat is blinding my eyes. I want to give up. I want answers. Why can’t I do said exercise with ease and grace? I want the pain in my hip-flexers and quads to migrate to my middle. So, I ask whichever teacher I’m working with, either Shari Berkowitz or Bob Leikens, and, I always elicit the same response, “WORK HARDER!”

I take sessions with these master teachers in hopes that their resolve and sometimes strident corrections will, by osmosis or other magical means, meld me into a Pilates superstar. The truth is, I do my weekly workouts on my own, but just can’t get as much out of them.

I give up too easily on myself.

My senior year in high school I dropped out, ran away from home, and moved to Hawaii. I know, pretty dramatic huh? I spent two glorious years there, somehow making a life for myself despite my naivete. When I returned home, I finished my high school work and earned my diploma. After my time away, I lost the momentum of learning and didn’t end up  going to college. What could school teach me that I didn’t already know? I was working as a professional dancer, living on my own, paying my own way. Who could teach me more than life already had?

I went on to go to dance school at a prominent studio in LA, and eventually became a Pilates instructor piecing together my learning when I had the extra cash. I was successful, if not in traditional terms. Living on my own in my own apartment and scraping by with odd jobs between dancing gigs. I eventually bought my own reformer with cash from a particularly lucrative gig and saw clients out of my home, I was suddenly a small business owner.

Years later, when the murkiness of inexperience faded away, I reflected back on my life to see where I’d been. Frankly, although I had been places and done things, I felt like a fraud. I had no degree, I had no job, I was in my 30’s and I had no health insurance or a ring on my left hand. In society’s view, I was nowhere but here. I was sore at all those responsible for my deficiencies. My parents for not chaining me to bed when I wanted to skip town. The absent school counselor who didn’t instruct me to research schools that cater to budding artists like me. My ancestors for not making it big and leaving me a trust fund.

That's me 2nd from the left- always a bridesmaid, never the bride

That’s me 2nd from the left- always a bridesmaid, never the bride

It was right then that a very wise woman (my therapist) reminded that I shouldn’t assassinate the one person I was left with, me. So, while the absence of all the things in my life is real, ultimately it’s up to one person to work harder and deliver it to me. That’s yours truly. When the exercise feels unbearable and impossible, it’s up to me to rally and make it happen, “Work Harder!” When I’m lonely, or abandoned, or slighted, it’s up to me to supply the cure. Don’t kill the messenger, or yourself. You’re all you really have.

Having a hard time getting motivated? Beating yourself up for not working out hard enough, or even working out at all? We’ve got just what you need. Our expert instructors will teach you the joy of Pilates, and will whisper (or yell) WORK HARDER depending on what your needing that day. Get a solid foundation and your confidence back with our >New Client Special, three private sessions to get you moving well.

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