Chasing Carrots

I had a conversation with a new friend the other day about love. Is love as we know it real or just an illusive place to visit? The invisible road with a map that’s yet to be discovered. Love is intangible, yet we still constantly fight 24/7 to hold it in our hands. As an Californian born single child, I didn’t have the best love role models. My parents divorced. My Grandparents fought viciously. As far as I was concerned, if this was love, you could have it. I wanted nothing to do with that drama, yet somehow I felt the pull and allure of butterflies and swoon. Love, or what I thought love was, just felt so good. The Adrenaline, Dopamine, and Serotonin cocktail of love was a high I could get behind, and drink it I did. The chemical haze fogged my better judgement and often left me well, addicted. When the relationship (or lack there of) ended my brain didn’t know the love fix was over, and my heart was already enraptured by the habit. Scientists say that, “love isn’t so much an emotion in its own right”—although aspects of it are obviously highly emotional—as it is a “goal-oriented motivational state.” I had my target. Got the bullseye, and now I wanted to play darts every damn day!

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So, if love is chemical and really about chasing the carrot to satisfy your brain’s craving for the Kool-aid, what other ways can we use this obsession for good?

  • Health and Fitness

I am super familiar with this struggle. As a professional Pilates instructor I find it just as hard as to get my clients motivated as I do my own ass. Come on, why would anyone want to move instead of just lie around or eschew birthday cake in lieu of rice cakes? Well turns out that it’s not just the generating the love hormone of Dopamine that matters, but also where we physically generate it. That girl who you always see at the gym sweating it out most likely has her dope (short only for dopamine:) production in the stratum and prefontal cortex- the two areas known for motivation and reward, while the “slackers” like me produce the stuff in the anterior insula, the area of the brain that is for emotion and risk perception. The sheer act of moving your body, especially with cardiovascular exercise, makes your brain release dopamine and will make you feel like a million bucks. That’s right. The more you do the stuff the more you want it, and eventually crave it as much as that chocolate bar.

  • Goal Setting

The same goes for the goal setting goodness. Why do you think it feels oh so good to cross that to-do off your list? Dopamine baby. Check. Rush. Repeat. So if you get a shot of the good stuff every time you complete a task, make sure you break each goal into easy completed segments to get the most dope (short for dopamine again, sorry) for your buck. The easier smaller segment of your goal, the easier it is to complete, the better you feel, the harder you work. Done and done.

So next time you’re lamenting your procrastinating or sloth-like ways, just get off your buns and starting the good vibes will follow, after all it’s all just in your head.

 

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Teacher Focus Feature ~ Brittany Crosby

It’s no surprise that Brittany Crosby, a red haired Pilates maven, is as fiery as her locks. Don’t get her wrong though — she’s as precise in her teaching as a scalpel and will get you sweating even in her hushed tones. Her visible tattoos and a wicked sense of humor is what got my attention at first glance, but her teaching passion and ability to help others heal is what had me welcoming her with open arms to the FORM family. Here’s her story:

New York Headshot Photographer Sofia Negron

Brittany, a professional dancer, got into Pilates like so many of us that teach it, through her art. Looking to improve her dance technique she started studying the method. When she realized how much mindfulness and concentration it required, she was instantly infatuated. The transition from practicing to teaching was natural. She had already been teaching dance classes off and on for years so as she got into her Pilates practice and the opportunity came up to be able to certify, she jumped on it. Learning the theory, how to practice for herself, and how to teach others just overlapped. Even now, after 10 years of teaching, it blows her mind how when you allow the work to center yourself, you can actually realign your body.

New York Dance photographer Sofia Negron Brittany Crosby Pilates

Fascinated by anatomy and physiology, Brittany’s focus as a teacher is on rehabilitative movement for special populations. Her favorite clients are those who are post-op knee/hip replacement, rotator cuff surgery, and spinal fusion. Working with this type of clientele is really gratifying for Brittany because finding the movements that relieve restriction and pain are a huge deal. Every subtle shift and advancement in her client’s ability is a notable milestone that drives those working against injuries or disabilities. Helping people to realize that they have control by mindfully moving and truly focusing is a spectacular thing to see progress and makes her a better teacher. More and more she’s also getting into working with those who are stunted by diseases like Fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s.

When Brittany isn’t teaching she’s dancing (duh) or watching Youtube videos of hip and knee replacements (this is true! I’ve witnessed the horror many times!!!) Her bigger vision is to be part of innovative movement research that furthers the understanding of the brain-body connection that can be applied to help those dealing with pain and movement-debilitating conditions. We have no doubt she’ll do just that!

 

4 Fun Facts About Brittany:

  • I used to work on a cruise ship as a dancer
  • I developed my own major at Indiana University
  • I like being connected and collaborating with my client’s health care practitioners (acupuncturists, physical therapists, chiropractors, orthopedists)
  • The first year I lived in NYC I dressed up like an elf and did a flashmob in Union Square

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For The Pilates Virgins

 

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I’m always the first to say, and have been known to shout it out loud in a mat class or two, Pilates instructors LOVE Pilates Virgins. I mean, I can understand from the perspective of a newbie not wanting to show their rookie status, favoring hiding in the back, and meekly or not at all raising their hand when asked if they’ve done this before. I get it. We want to always be the expert in the situation. No one wants to look the fool, but as the other side of this equation, as the instructor, let me tell you: we <3 the beginners. I know — you virgins may not yet be convinced.

Well, here’s three reasons why no experience is needed to be our favorite population to work with:

  • You’re like clay

That’s right! Like a malleable piece of clay, we can use Pilates to mold your body into exactly what it’s meant to be. Since everything is new we can just observe how the work looks on physique without a bad movement habit throwing you off. You’re soft (no pun intended) so we can shape and work to create a strong foundation in the Pilates method that will serve you for years to come.

  • You are usually eager

Since you’ve had absolutely no previous Pilates experience, good or bad, you are less likely to be resistant to our corrections, suggestions, and instruction. Beginners are usually the most eager to please, the hardest workers, and the most present in their workouts. You don’t have a previous Pilates “movie” going on in your head which means that you are in the moment listening to our every word. Besides the fact that it boost our teacher egos, it also helps you get the most out of your session so you “finish” feeling completely worked and rejuvenated.

  • You see the most change

I often say, there’s in-shape and then there’s Pilates-shape. This work guarantees to be different than ANYTHING you’ve ever done, because simply there’s nothing like it. Our bodies usually respond best to varied movement and challenge so your first 10-30 sessions will be your most memorable. You’ll always remember when you mastered that seemly impossible exercise, saw your pants getting a little baggier, and notice a muscle growing where you didn’t even know you had one. This new-ness only comes once in a Pilates lifetime and we love to be a part of it.

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So, own your naiveté and know that your instructor is stoked to have a novice in their midst. When it’s time to declare that it’s your first time in class, raise your hand high. Remember you only have your first time once…

The team at FORM Pilates wants to take you through your first time…email us studio [at] formpilates [dot] com today to speak to our Pilates concierge

 

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Teacher Focus Feature ~ Vanessa West

One of FORM’s newest teaching additions is Vanessa West. I first met Vanessa in my studio at one of my business seminars. I found her incredibly smart and insightful so when she told me she wanted to be part of the FORM brood I was thrilled! I am pleased to have this opportunity to get to know her better and share my findings with you! Here’s the scoop on Vanessa: ChairpullUpb&w

With a childhood speckled with ballet and dance, Vanessa knows the importance of moving well. As a “corporate animal” she was looking for something that could alleviate thediscomfort of sitting in boardrooms and airplanes all day, and she got it with her first taste of Pilates on a mat in a dusty old room. The Tribeca space was in need of renovation, a converted dance studio, but that didn’t phase Vanessa- the class was amazing and it was love at first workout. She was especially drawn to the key principles of Pilates – control and centering, which helped her manage a demanding travel schedule during her career in media sales and marketing. Eventually she decided that a stiff back and the 9 to 5 schedule was not her style and decided to leave the office to become a fully certified Pilates instructor and teach full time.

Besides the way the method made her feel, Vanessa was attracted to how Pilates challenges every body, regardless of age or fitness level. The initial draw of the work in her body was fused with seeing how her client’s mind-body connections improved and finally helping them achieve the results they always wanted with the magic of Pilates.vw102.hr

So, it’s no surprise that Vanessa loves to work with clients who have spent their professional lives in corporate environments. She can relate to how the pace and pressure of corporate life can create a disconnect between our minds and bodies.  Helping people incorporate the method into their daily lives – sitting up at their desks, controlling their breathing while giving a presentation, scooping their abs when reaching up for that bag in the overhead bin. She loves helping people build & improve that bridge, making them more confident in their body’s abilities

Vanessa seems to always be teaching these days, but when she isn’t she’s been getting back into cooking. Tackling the “Balthazaar” cookbook, who’s most recent dish was their coq au vin.  Art & travel is also on the agenda, and she’s ready to get more stamps on her passport.  Ireland and Greece are at the top of her list.

Here’s 5 secret nuggets you may not know about Vanessa:

  • She’s afraid of birds, heights and clowns. At times that’s a challenge in NYC!
  • She loves a good martini, slightly dirty.
  • She believes that life is too short to take ourselves too seriously.
  • She likes tall men who can make me laugh.
  • And she believes that it IS true that sometimes you’ve just gotta dance.

 

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What the Fuck is Pilates Anyway?

In a conversation with a couple of clients over brunch, I realized how little people know about what Pilates is — even those who actually practice it.

As I took the time to ponder this anomaly, I started wonder what is Pilates anyway?

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There’s the textbook answer: Joe Pilates was an actual man. A boxer, gymnast, movement enthusiast. He was an inventor, an innovator. A man’s man. A beer-drinking, cigar-smoking German. My clients all have that basic knowledge, and maybe some of the New York lineage. “Yes, Romana, she’s the Pilates guru,” but that’s really it. As I sat explaining the roots of Pilates, its foundation, family tree, and my line, I realized that it still doesn’t really explain what it actually is. SO, if Pilates isn’t the people that created it or teach it, what the fuck is Pilates anyway?

 

It might be easiest to start with what Pilates isn’t. It’s not yoga, or ballet-based. It’s not weight training, or just mat work. Pilates falls somewhere between mind/body modalities and cross fit. It’s not extreme or passive. It stretches, strengthens, energizes, relaxes, and heals all at the same time. There’s equipment involved, and while it’s most beneficial if you use it, you don’t have to if you want to do some Pilates.

 

No wonder Pilates is confuIMG_4501sing to most people — even to it’s instructors. We come from all different backgrounds — from dancers to dog trainers — and hold certifications from different schools in over 20 states and 24 international countries. It was Joe’s dream to have a Pilates studio on every corner, in every city, in every country. The thing with expansion is that the more hands you have on something the more it morphs and changes, and some say, mutates. Joe used to give each person their own personal workout and then let them loose in the studio nudging and elbowing them into correct form. So whatever Pilates was for the business man that came to the studio, it may not be the same for the ballerina next to him. The definition of Pilates wasn’t the same for him as it was for her.

 

Here’s where the family tree grows branches and spreads it’s seeds across the world, making Joe’s dream come true. Many hands, many amalgamations. But isn’t that what their experience warranted? The industry gets bogged down with arguments and “discussions” on who’s actually teaching the true work of Joe, but really who the heck knows what Joe would do if he were alive today? He would probably be sitting back, sipping a cold one, and laughing at all the money in the bank.

 

 

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Three Reasons People Are Afraid To Try Pilates — And Why You Shouldn’t Be

I’m not gonna lie. Pilates is hard. I was a professional dancer before I came to Pilates and I still thought it damn hard when I started. Sure, I had the coordination thing down already but I still had to re-learn how to move the Pilates way and that, my friend, was not easy. From a teaching stand-point, I try to convey this struggle to my clients. They will merely roll their eyes in disbelief and say, “Sure, your teaser looks like you have been doing it since you came out of the womb.” Not the case. When I started taking lessons I couldn’t do a roll-up to save my life because my lower back was locked solid from years of butt-clenching at the ballet barre. I find it particularly irritating to dispel all of the Pilates rumors and try to convince men that there really was a man who created the work and it was not a flouncy ballerina in a tutu. So, if you’ve been interested in trying that thing called Pilates this article is for you. Pilates is a challenge, but anything worth having is always worth working for isn’t it?

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  • Reason #1 – Pilates is just for dancers and women

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the method. To dispel the rumors correctly let me give you a quick history lesson. Joe Pilates was an actual person who was very much a manly man. He was a boxer and a gymnast who smoked cigars and drank beer. There was nothing girly about this German powerhouse. The first studio in the US was opened in NYC, and just happened to be in the same building as two of the biggest dance companies. When dancers heard that Uncle Joe on the 5th floor was helping heal injuries and strengthen weak muscles, they jumped right on that. Dancers became some of his biggest devotees not because the work was dance-like, but instead because they danced better and healed themselves with the work. When your body is your source of income, it is indispensable. In the modern Pilates studio, men may feel intimidated by all the ladies in the house. They shouldn’t. In that very first Pilates studio, business men were sweating it out right next to the dancers under Joe’s watchful eye. Remember, this was the 1920s and most women were home with the babies and didn’t seem concerned with working out. Men dominated the studio and Joe knew just how to work with them since he created the method for himself and well, he is the man.

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  • Reason #2 – I’ll look stupid/awkward/feel embarrassed/or won’t be good at it

Ok, let’s just say that anytime you try to learn a new skill there’s going to be a learning curve. No one jumps on a bike for the first time and pedals away. Sure, some of us pick up certain things faster than others but we’ve all fallen, stumbled, or tripped along the way so you’re not alone. Learning Pilates is no different. It’s something you have NEVER done and it’s NOT like anything else so duh, it’s going to be a challenge. The thing is, it’s not about getting somewhere or reaching some illusive Pilates level. No way, Jose! It’s about the movement, and in that moment, being present with each muscle and sensation. Learning to coordinate those movements together to work your body (the only one you’ll have in this lifetime btw), to its most efficient, healthiest self. Plus, Pilates instructors don’t see all of those so-called missteps. We’re trained to be so focused on what YOU need as the individual and how to give you that. We aren’t really paying attention to nervousness. We just want you to work hard no matter how it looks. So, feel a little awkward. Maybe even be a little embarrassed. But don’t give up because Pilates is one of the BEST things you can do for your self.

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  • Reason #3 – I don’t have the right body type or I’m too old

Joe’s biggest dream was that there would be a Pilates studio on every corner, in every city, all over the world. What he didn’t envision, was that only skinny, anorexic-looking women would be doing his method. Nuh uh. He had fantasies of kids doing Pilates in school, elderly men standing tall for the first time in years, and sedentary office workers getting color in their cheeks from finally getting their blood pumping. Pilates is for everyone and every body. It is safe enough for the 80 year old or the injured; it is challenging enough for those pro-dancers and athletes. In archival documents and interviews Joe Pilates never talks about muscles or bones but rather breath and blood. He wasn’t promising flat abs or a perky ass, but optimal health and space for your organs to do their thing without obstacles. Feeling good was waaaay more important than looking it. So, whether you’re a super model or a just the average Joe — Pilates IS right for you!

In short there is really no good reasons not to be doing Pilates, so get over yourself and get into the studio. I promise you’ll thank me. If you’re in New York, schedule your New Client Special here at FORM Pilates USQ here!

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Teacher Focus Feature~ Angilique Campbell

My first thought when meeting the amazingly gorgeous Angilique Campbell was that she was a Nubian Princess in a past life. Statuesque and striking, standing 5’8”, she is a pure joy to be around. She has an air of poise and self-assurance that makes you want to be her and an relaxed nature that makes you want to also be her best friend. Don’t let her beauty and hysterical stories fool you- she will kick your butt Pilates style!

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Angilique started her career in movement teaching group fitness classes that focused on cardio and strength training. During her packed classes her keen eye found that many students had issues with their bodies. Her desire to help address correct and restore them to proper movement led her into Pilates. She started taking Pilates mat and apparatus classes and fell in love. Immediately she felt the benefits of the method and decided to get her certification through Power Pilates.

Angilique’s favorite part of teaching Pilates is the challenge it provides for all fitness levels. She works with professional athletes and dancers helping to improve their game or performance with her rigorous regime (I told you she was a tough cookie). She’s also keen on the fact that Pilates is a perfect fit for rehabbing injuries since it can be modified for those with special needs. She even gets to practice this softer side of Pilates weekly since she also teaches out of a physical therapy office here in Manhattan.

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She enjoys working with the variety of clients but especially with dancers because she also dances. She loves that dancers have a great sense of body awareness but then also need the conditioning outside of classes, rehearsals, and performances. In addition to the dance community, Angilique also loves to work with men. She sees them lifting weights and running but neglecting their core and flexibility training. She gives them exercises to help improve their core strength, increase their flexibility, and show them that Pilates is not just for women! It was created by a man after all…Joseph Pilates!

Angilique Campbell

When Angilique’s not in the studio she most likely is getting a fierce mani/pedi! Her nails are kinda an obsession and she can name almost any color on the shelf. She takes yoga, ballet, contemporary, and modern classes regularly, sometimes three in one day! She loves a great brunch and is diligently practicing her French with aims to become fluent.

Here’s some fun facts about Ms. Campbell you might not know:

  • She gets her nails done so often that the salon she frequents  gave me her Korean name, Soo Hee
  • She loves cooking and will take classes to learn new recipes and is always experimenting on her own at home
  • She loves animals and often goes to the pet shop just to play with them
  • She had emergency eye surgery this year which prevented her from going blind. She loves going for follow up visits because she has the biggest crush on her surgeon:)
  • She’s fancy like the Iggy Azalea song

Click on the video below to get a taste of the goodness that is Angilique then click here to book with Angilique in our Union Square studio for a sweaty workout or a cure for what ails you.

photos courtesy of  Simon McDermott-Johnson and Nina Robinson

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Will The Real Joe Pilates Please Stand Up?

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The fitness industry, known for being notoriously fickle, has embraced Pilates- even if it can barely pronounce its name. Most people think it is merely a form of exercise that can yield strong abs, but what they don’t know, is that there is a man at the core of these body changing exercises. Today, Pilates has over 10 million practitioners all over the world, As the New York Herald Tribune noted in 1964, “in dance classes around the United States, hundreds of young students limber up daily with an exercise they know as a pilates, without knowing that the word has a capital P, and a living, right-breathing namesake.” Those who have studied the method, know it is so much more. They know it is the work of an actual genius, Mr. Joseph Hubertus Pilates.

Pilates was born in Germany in 1880. A sickly child, he suffered from Asthma, Rickets, and Rheumatic Fever. At an early age he was fascinated by the ideal Greek man who balanced mind, body, and spirit. Pilates or “Contrology” as Joe actually called it, has its roots in his personal experience. Determined to heal himself from his ailments, he gained inspiration from Anatomy books and the movement of animals he watched in the woods. His passion to cure himself led him to study many types of movement including yoga, boxing, diving, and gymnastics.

In 1912 Joe lived in England and was a defense instructor for the Scotland Yard. When WWI broke out in 1914 , he was placed in an internment camp where he fine tuned his method and was able to successfully rehabilitate injured soldiers by removing the springs off their beds and using them to exercise their fragile bodies. This is was the origin of first piece of Pilates apparatus.pilates.240

After the war, Pilates returned to Germany but was uncomfortable with its political and social conditions, it was then he made his decision to emigrate to America. In 1926,on his voyage across the sea, he met his future wife, Clara. Together they opened the first Pilates studio in a former boxing gym, right here in NYC, at 939 Eighth Ave. His gymnasium attracted the professional dancers (that had rehearsal in his building) actors, business men, and normal people alike that would willingly subject themselves to his authoritative prodding in hopes to be transformed by Uncle Joe.

At FORM Pilates we focus on learning Pilates as it was intended: one-on-one. While we know that Pilates is both and investment in time and money, we want you to have the most out of your sessions. This is why we offer an introductory special to all first time clients at our NYC studio. This customized approach allows our instructors to specialize a Pilates program just for you. Build your foundation solidly. Sessions are by appointment only so reserve the first of your 3 private sessions in our our New Client Special today!



You’re Only As Old As Your Spine

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If you’re squeamish about growing old, listen up. Joe (Mr. Pilates to you), lived and died by his method. He was convinced that the further we got away from our primitive selves (squatting, hunting, gathering, and well, moving), the further we moved from our health. He used his exercises like medicine and prescribed “common sense remedies for common sense ills”.  It’s no shock that Pilates was ahead of his time both in thinking and innovation so it’s a wonder everyone isn’t doing Pilates. Simply put, Pilates keeps you young. Strength and flexibility, coordination (both muscularly and mentally), improved posture, balance and core strength, improved bone density, and joint health – not to mention it’ll make you look damn good. Joseph said it best, “ You are only as old as your spine. If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young!!!” How young are you?

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Ok, so now we’re gonna get a little technical here (try not to snooze on me). This is important stuff, the place where you see the light because when you know better you do better. Right? Think about your spine for a moment. It’s the thing that’s holding you up, yo. You have 24 articulating vertebrae and 9 fused that make up your sacrum (the triangle area above your bootie crack) and your tailbone. In between the ones that move, are intervertebral disks, yes the ones that can slip or herniate. This whole show houses your spinal cord which routes all the nerves of your body from your brain and brain stem. If you don’t keep your spine aligned, free moving, and roomy you can experience pain and/or organ disfunction, since your spinal cord sends signals from your mother board of a brain. Simply put, this shit is important so if you neglect your backbone you’ll be sorry. So, what’s a gal to do?

By now you may be thinking, “This is bad news,” or “I’m screwed,” or maybe even “making space in my spine is impossible.” I assure you my friend, it isn’t. We’ll start at the bottom, of your spine and of this process. Pilates, there’s that guy again, said “It’s the mind that builds the body”. With a little faith and lots of conviction envision your spine like a column of french macaroons (deee-licious). The muscles of your abs, back, and sides form a corset around this pillar. You’ll want to wrap those muscles firmly around your macaroons (mine are salted caramel flavored) and lift. That’s right, physically and mentally elevate those cookies so as not to create crumbs and waste those expensive patisseries. While you may not see or feel tangible results immediately, with patience and persistence I promise you’ll see results. Even Joe says so, “Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.”

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So, let’s begin. Pick your favorite Pilates exercise, such as the neck-pull on the mat, Teaser on the Reformer, or Rolling Back on the Cadillac. Anywhere you do Pilates (and even the places where you don’t, like standing on the subway platform) lift those Macaroons like your life depended on it, because like my mentor Shari Berkowitz says, “it does.” If you don’t know any Pilates moves or have no idea where to begin we are here to help. If you’re in NYC come and visit our lovely little studio and we’ll show you how it’s done. If you’re in some far away land, check out our YouTube channel for free video workouts, and if you want help finding an instructor near you we’re happy to help with that too. Pilates is not just body changing but also life changing. Now let’s live life like we have the spine of a 20 year old!

Interested in keeping your spine healthy and young with Pilates? Live in NYC? Visit our USQ studio and see how one of our amazing instructors can get you moving free and fine! Don’t live in the city? We have videos and audio workouts you can do out home. Check them out here.

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