Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Mar 5, 2017 in Business & Education, Featured, Interviews, Social | 0 comments

Ken Endelman – The man behind Balanced Body

Ken Endelman – The man behind Balanced Body

Working with Pilates as I do, I get to interview some of the most inspirational people involved with Pilates over the years. It makes my job so much more rewarding and helps to inspire and inform our ever increasing audience of Pilates enthusiasts.
During Pilates on Tour 2016 in London, I got to interview Ken Endelman, the man behind the innovative creation of Pilates equipment. It was a golden opportunity to find out more about the man, how he started out, his inspiration and plans for the future.
Before we start, a little background about the man himself for those who are new to Pilates. Ken started out as a designer of custom made furniture back in the 70s along the famous Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. A future customer would change Ken’s path when she came in asking for modifications on an existing piece of equipment, known as the “Reformer.” With no background in or knowledge of Pilates, he studied the original designs from Joseph Pilates, consulted with other knowledgeable instructors and original students of Pilates, and came up with something special. From there would begin a whole new adventure for Ken and Pilates enthusiasts. Today Ken is the CEO of Balanced Body, providing equipment, exercise, instruction and much, much more worldwide.
My first question to Ken was about his early days and that first special client: Looking back now he can remember stalling and putting her off, thinking it was something he shouldn’t really get involved in, that it would be a phase, a passing fancy that wouldn’t really result in anything. However, the lady was persistent, and following some random dates in the diary as to when he would start, the lady in question eventually cornered and confronted him about when he was going to start. So from there, he worked on modifying and refining the Reformer.  Ken continued his work on Pilates equipment and creating pieces that helped make Pilates a pleasurable, safer and more unique experience for the user.  Input from others helped him to formulate his ideas including an antiques dealer from Majorca, Pilates instructors from all over the States, the use of unusual bits and pieces such as motorcycle parts and various shaped lamps, everything was explored and everything was changed, modified and fine-tuned, until it was right, until it was perfect.

Lawsuits and trademarks made Ken’s early career difficult. Pilates really started taking off in the 1990s, with the enthusiastic endorsement of celebrities and movie stars. However, back in those early days, it was impossible to use the word ”Pilates”, or even call yourself a ”Pilates” instructor without the risk of being sued.  The ‘P’ word was a dirty word that everyone was afraid to mention, and it made it difficult for Ken to use it for his new found business in Pilates equipment.  Ken took the lead in the Pilates trademark dispute, and thankfully, in 2000 the federal court in Manhattan, along with the US Patent & Trademark Office, decided that the word Pilates was not trademarked and could be used to describe exercise, equipment or studios without risk of legal action, and that had a tremendous impact on Ken Endelman’s career.  The result was that the name Pilates was freely available to everyone.

Although Pilates became popular in the 90s, it started much earlier, Ken was happy to fill me in on its earlier history.  Joseph Pilates was born back in the 1920s and become popular for a brief period in the 60s before fading away in late ’67.  In the 1990s, it gained more momentum with Pilates schools coming up in the mid-90s, and of course, with the help of movie stars and celebrities, it gained worldwide popularity.

For Ken his work is about the process of perfecting, improving, and brainstorming with other people. Collaboration is the key and he’s worked hard with many people over the years to fine tune his existing equipment and to come up with new ideas.  At this same time, other aspects of Balanced Body business are developing, like for example, education.  Numbers for the Pilates on Tour Conferences, and workshops are increasing and it takes tremendous dedication and focus he to keep all these balls in the air. You take an empty room, he points out, a room with nothing but carpets and walls, and turn it into this dynamic conference centre with equipment, people, and all the dynamics that goes with that, and then at the end of it you have an empty room again.
Looking to the future, Ken mentions that in the US, 85% of Pilates users are female, and this is something he wants to change (considering the founder was a man).  It’s good to have more men on-board, and he’s looking to see what he can do to make this happen.  Men like to work hard, get sweaty and beat it up slightly, although he’s quick to point out that perhaps he’s generalising a little.  As most of the exercises men do, usually, involve standing positions, and Pilates involves lying down and sitting, he’s looking to create something where there’s more focus on practicing in a standing position. What kind of situations can we present people with? What will make it more appetising for them? And how can we market Pilates in a way that’s appealing to people who aren’t doing it now?
In his 40th year in business, Ken is as enthusiastic about Pilates now as he ever was. The beauty of Pilates with its “cool set of principles” that make a lot of sense, but, his mind is still working on improvements and attracting a wider audience.  He’s frustrated by the fact that Pilates is only a small part of the fitness world and that people still don’t really understand it and would like to find a way to reach that part of the population and steer them towards Pilates through varied approaches.  For example, the Bodhi SuSpension System,  a practical and challenging piece of equipment for the Pilates studio owner, it needs somewhere to hang, preferably a strong wall, a wall that’s safe. The Bodhi provides exercises that involve working against gravity. Yes, there are other kinds of suspension like TRX but he feels that Pilates can feature its own unique form of suspension, and he’s keen for people to try it out.

Does Ken know more about Pilates now and does he practice it himself?  Yes, for a man who started out as a self-described ‘closet engineer,’ he does enjoy Pilates, even though he started out not having a clue as to what it was. He understood the basics enough to create the machines he came up with, and what their end goal should be, but little more. However, for more than a decade he’s been consistently practicing Pilates back home in Sacramento. He also practices it whenever he can when travelling.
Balanced Body is very much a family affair with everyone involved including his wife and his sons. His daughter-in-law has become a Pilates Instructor and is also involved in the business, Pilates is clearly had its influence on the entire family.
Apart from Pilates, how does Ken relax when he’s not working? He enjoys bike riding and goes for ‘epic’ rides.  In 2015 he prepared for a fantastic ride at Lake Tahoe in aid of Leukaemia. His preparations involved daily 100-mile bike rides!
I ask him if he has anything to tell us he’s not told anyone else before, a secret he’d like to share with us today, he thinks for a moment and then suggests philanthropy. He’d like to be a philanthropist, to be able to give stuff away to those most in need. He buys the $5 lottery ticket and thinks about what he’d do with the money should he win a considerable sum. We talk about small kindnesses and the importance of giving. He mentions the book “Who Stole My Cheese?” and we talk about simply being nice, of making someone’s day, just because you can.
His favourite Pilates moves are standing ones mostly, (no surprises there) and also standing moves using the Corealign. He also loves the Elephant.
I ask finally, what’s his birth sign? Pisces. And that’s interesting I tell him because that’s the typical ”giver” – the philanthropist who’s tries and does everything until they have a large body of knowledge. Then they think about what and how can they give to others.
It’s a perfect way to end the interview.

Read More

Posted by on Apr 22, 2016 in Featured, Interviews, Pilates | 0 comments

Introducing Suzanne Scott

Introducing Suzanne Scott

I was fortunate enough to catch up with Suzanne Scott, a Pilates teacher I greatly admire. Suzanne has been designing and delivering Pilates teacher training and movement courses since 1996 and is a founder member of Pilates Foundation. She is based at her studio in Somerset, England, and also works as a consultant in elite performance, with a focus on football.  Suzanne was appointed as an Associate in Human Movement and Anatomy at the Vesalius Clinical Training Centre in 2013, and is involved in developing postgraduate anatomy courses for practitioners at the University of Bristol.

Suzanne is often asked to give lectures and workshops in the UK and abroad, and has developed a particular interest in how specific movement training may play a role in enhancing

athlete performance. We caught up with her last year in London, to find out a little more about her approach to teaching as well as her own training background.

Suzanne, it turns out, is extremely busy at the moment. She is currently in the process of completing her Phd at the University of Exeter where she is researching the effects of multidirectional HIIT on bone health.

She first became interested in movement at university, when she began acting in productions involving dance and (as it was then known) physical theatre. After university she went to Laban and studied dance formally, and discovered Pilates after a fellow dancer recommended it for an injury.  Taking class at Alan Herdman’s studio within the dance school in West St, she was inspired by the effectiveness of his method and the impact it had both on her injury and those of others attending his studio.

Although not intending at this point to become a teacher herself, a chance invitation to share what she knew about movement led to Suzanne deciding to fomalise her training and to study first with Alan Herdman in London, and then in Toronto with Moira Stott. Around this time she also became interested in the work of Mark Comerford and his approach to movement assessment and retraining, having met Mark early in the 1990’s through a friend who was a physiotherapist.

Suzanne began working in sport initially through an invitation to work with rugby players and cricketers, and for the last 12 years she has mainly worked in football, with a particular focus on injury prevention and rehabilitation.  She’s also maintained a keen interest in dance and dancers’ movement. These two populations, footballers and dancers, says Suzanne, are the two professions that interest her the most. She has found a lot of similarity in terms of movement between both disciplines and also believes that there is much each discipline can learn from the other.

In 2013 with a small group of experienced teachers and teacher trainers, Suzanne co-founded IPTA, the Independent Pilates Teachers Association, that aims to promote the values of independent practice and mutual association between Pilates teaching professionals.

We’re coming to the end of the interview so I ask – What is/are your favourite exercises and why?

A tough one- if pushed my Desert Island exercise from the matwork would be Shoulder Bridge- it targets posterior hip efficiency, lower limb alignment, foot drive, rotation loading on a single leg support…a multitasker if ever there was one!

From the equipment repertoire I would choose between a quadruped exercise – Knee Stretch – for upper limb focus, hip and spine integration and ( if I was allowed a single leg variation) something to help pattern the reciprocal limb movements of gait, and the Short Spine- for the sense of weightlessness and suspension it offers.

And lastly, what advice would you give your younger self?

Focus on the doing rather than the difficult – something that appears hard often becomes, if not easy, at least achievable, once you begin to engage with it and find ways of tackling the issues that may have been putting you off.

Suzanne lives in Somerset with her husband Jock, who has taken on the role of running the studio and co-ordinating her professional activities and engagements. She is a keen football supporter and follows her local club Yeovil Town. She has two children, a son and daughter, and, as we discovered, in her next life she would like to come back as a perfumiere, she says she can usually name a scent at fifty feet!

Suzanne is currently teaching workshops during Pilates on Tour,  as well as local workshops in Bristol and London. Click HERE for Scott Studio website.

Read More

Posted by on Jul 15, 2015 in Featured, Interviews, Pilates, Workshops, Workshops and Further Education | 0 comments

Shari Berkowitz & The Vertical Workshop

Shari Berkowitz & The Vertical Workshop

We caught up with the pioneering and inspirational Pilates teacher Shari Berkowitz whilst she was here in London. We were keen to discover what made The Vertical Workshop programme unique and so successful, and how Shari’s approach to teaching differed from more conventional approaches.

We began by asking Shari how she decided on the unusual name ‘The Vertical Workshop’. The reason, Shari explained, came from a practical source in that she was originally based in a medically zoned building in Beverly Hills which, for multiple reasons, precluded her from using the word ‘Pilates’ in her workshop title. At this stage Shari had to think out of the box to come up with an original title. Shari has never been the sort of person to experiment with lots of different Pilates techniques and approaches which she had always termed a ‘horizontal approach’ to teaching, instead preferring to ‘dig deeper and deeper’ into particular techniques. This approach she had always labelled ‘vertical’ which then got her thinking perhaps the term ‘vertical’ could also be seen as a metaphor for life, as in ‘staying upright or vertical in one’s life’. Thus the name ‘The Vertical Workshop’ was born.

Vertical workshop logoSo what exactly does The Vertical Workshop do? Shari is quick to point out that The Vertical Workshop is not longer a static brick and mortar studio, but the studio is now in effect the whole world. She travels extensively around the globe offering regular workshops, but also something considerably different. She offers one and a half year continuing education programmes in Pilates. These are punctuated with intensive three day seminars every four months, each one based in a different global location. The workshop then continues for another four months via intensive instruction online with students using a radical, new app. Shari also punctuates this with a monthly video conference for students to benefit from her knowledge and wisdom.

One of the things that makes Shari’s approach so different from other approaches to Pilates is that she refuses to see herself as the ‘font of all knowledge’. She explains that everyone can learn from other people and their experiences and knowledge is there to be shared. She goes on to say that she feels that continuing education in Pilates has become extremely disparate these days and this has made the whole area very confusing for many people. As a consequence a lot of people find it difficult to know how to apply the knowledge that they may have learned. This has become Shari’s rallying cry – how to apply and use the knowledge gained from studies in productive and constructive ways.

Given what she had told us, we were intrigued to find out how Shari first became interested in Pilates and continuing education. We discovered her route was an extremely unusual one. As a child and a teenager Shari had a deep passion for Physics and how the mechanical world functioned. At the same time she had a parallel passion for musical theatre, something she had an extremely successful career in. Sadly, however, Shari suffered a devastating accident whilst on stage which left her paralysed for some considerable time. It was at this stage, as she was slowly recovering through physical therapy, that Shari began to notice that bio physics and mechanical physics were two entirely separate things. Shari’s accident, however, had left her with a lot of questions which no one seemed able to answer and thus from here Shari became absolutely fascinated with how the human body functions and how we can better understand this process.

Does Shari have any tips for teachers based in continuing education? It turns out that she has many. Firstly, she says, ‘actually practice Pilates’ – it is amazing, she continues, how many teachers don’t actually practice themselves. Secondly, experience as many different styles as you can and don’t become restricted to one or two styles, in other words keep your mind open. By the same token you should also take workshops with as many different people as you can thereby further expanding your own knowledge. Perhaps most importantly, however, the goal of The Vertical Workshops is to develop critical thinking rather than adopting a blind acceptance approach to what you have been told – step outside of Pilates sometimes and read other materials. This way you will develop a much more rounded sense of self and this will feed back productively and constructively into your Pilates. Finally, Shari stresses once again the need to share your knowledge with others, especially those who are also learning to think critically.Shari teaching 2

What about the Shari Berkowitz outside of the classroom? Shari explains she is deeply in love with her boyfriend Joe who is a self-taught musician who has inspired her for many years. They live together in an idyllic spot just outside of Manhattan with Joe’s daughter from a previous marriage.

Shari’s approach to continuing education in Pilates may be very different to many other, more conventional, approaches, but as we found from the passion with which Shari speaks about her work and the techniques that she uses, it is safe to say that it stands at forefront of the field today and represents the future for education into Pilates.

Read More

Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Business & Education, Featured, Pilates, Reviews, Social | 0 comments

Pilates on Tour 2015

Pilates on Tour 2015

Pilatestree had the pleasure of being invited to Balanced Body, Pilates on Tour in London again this year and as usual on offer were great workshops hosted by some fabulous teachers. You can’t be everywhere but I managed to see a few favourites but sorry not to have been able to get to every workshop on offer.

Suzanne Scott presented a workshop on ‘Pilates for  High Performance’. I’ve been a fan of Suzanne ever since I began my training where she often delivered lectures to us, or more scarily was an examiner in our final exams! Since then, I’ve attended several of her workshops but this was the best. She talked about, and showed us the roles strength, flexibility, power and endurance play for the athlete, and how we as Pilates teachers can facilitate this. The workshop was clearly and concisely presented with the perfect amount of demonstration and explanation and even though aimed at high performing athletes, I was still able to take parts of this and apply them to my classes this week. I also managed to get an interview with Suzanne, so watch this space!

Elizabeth Larkham presented a workshop on ‘Balancing the slings in the Pilates studio’ … Fabulously inventive as ever, Elizabeth delivered some gorgeous exercises on the reformer, Cadillac and chair and she did some amazing work for the neck using the stability sling. Following the principles of fascia training and with the latest research, she presented a balanced programme of exercises that were applicable to combat the effects of modern living i,e phones, computers etc.

This year, for the first time, I also managed to do a workshop with Chrissy Romani -Ruby and who I’ve just added to my favourites list. Her back background is physiotherapy and her workshop was, ‘The Gluteals and the link to lower back pain’. Back pain is so prevalent in our ever more sedentary society that this was a really useful look at the latest research and how we can use these finds in the Pilates environment. Needless to say, we all knew where our Gluteals were by the end of the workshop. I very much look forward to working with Chrissy again and picked up some  fabulous functional exercises both on the mat and the reformer to add to the repertoire. I used some of these exercises today – not sure my clients will thank me tomorrow but they will in the long term!

Thank you to Ken Endelman, Nora and Al Harrison, Dave Littman and all of the Pilates on Tour team for another great tour and being such good hosts. See you next year!

Read More

Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 in Interviews, Pilates | 0 comments

Becoming a Teacher – Amit Younger – Pilates on Demand

Becoming a Teacher – Amit Younger – Pilates on Demand


Read Part 1 of this interview

Interview with Amit Younger Part 2

I always knew that I enjoy working with people- teaching and guiding them. While I was a dancer I did some teaching of ballet and contemporary and found it really satisfying. What I realised over the years was that I mostly enjoy working with adults; teaching people who choose to come and work with me. I love getting to know people over time and seeing how they change, grow and get better. Becoming a Pilates Teacher came very naturally to me as I just had to apply my new found knowledge to skills I have been working on for years beforehand. Clearly there where many challenges and scary moments but taking two teacher training courses within a few years and doing a lot of practice and home study has really helped with that!

One of the aspects of teaching I am really intrigued by is what I see as the difference between the Instructor and the Teacher. The instructor part of our work is when we have to explain for the first (or millionth…) time about the set up, choreography or movement pattern of an exercise. The teacher part is for me the more interesting part which begins when the instructor has done their job…the teacher teaches what the exercise is all about, giving clients images and information which helps them understand Pilates better and make progress at whatever level they are. This helps the clients truly change and develop.

I find that, for many reasons, Pilates teachers can get “stuck” at the instructor phase and a number of years ago I developed a series of workshops to help teachers open up to these ideas and challenge themselves. I presented these workshops in the UK, Japan and across Europe and I am very happy with people’s responses and feedback. Teachers who come to these workshops have to be very open to criticising their own habits which is very difficult sometimes (Intake of breath here, as it’s very hard to take – I know! ST) but I do my best to support them in the process and make them focus on what they know and how they can get even better. I remember myself as a newly qualifies teacher working “by the book”. This was necessary and valuable. But the real progress took place when this was no longer enough and I was ready to take the next step into more meaningful teaching, looking for deeper observations and ways to express my knowledge and understanding.

Amit GreekSympos 3Amit goes on to explain that the teachers who seem to benefit more from these type of workshops are those who take the more intensive teacher training courses. Those intensive courses tend to focus a lot on the choreography of exercises and how to perform them and the race to learn and absorb so much material in such a short time can leave students short changed in regards to the qualities of the teaching process itself. It might also give students the idea that Pilates exercises can only be done in one particular way instead of the understanding and confidence that each exercise can be performed in many different ways depending on the person and the situation.

In his own studio Amit teaches up to four clients at a time who are all semi-independent. Clients will first take three private classes to allow the teachers to get to know them and allow them to get used to the method and the basic principles and then they join this semi-private environment. Clients learn a routine that is developed especially for their needs and ability and they then stick to it until they are ready for more exercises or challenge. Clients are required to gradually become more and more independent- they need to know what they’re doing and how to do it as well as how to set the equipment to their needs.

Pilates is a method of repetition and familiarising yourself with the repertoire is key. If you teach a client new or different exercises every week they will never become proficient in the work and will not benefit from the full potential of the method. Challenging your clients and keeping them motivated and interested does not have to depend on constantly changing the repertoire. You can offer them slight variations that challenge them in many different ways, insights that enhance their knowledge and you can fine tune their movement more and more. There is great satisfaction in getting better and better at what you do. It is the same motivation professional sports men and dancers have.

Pilates on Demand

Studio 1About 8 years ago I was in Israel sitting with my younger brother who is a website programmer and he said “I’ve been researching a lot and can’t understand how come there is no website for Pilates classes…”  We chatted into the night, rolling ideas on how we’re going to do it and then, as it often happens, we got on with life… Over the next few years Rael Isacowitz launched Pilates Interactive and later on Pilates Anytime came along. I subscribed to both services and found them both useful- the former to Pilates Students and the later to Pilates teachers, but when it comes to people at home I felt there was still a lot missing and there was a gap in the market.

About 4 years ago I rolled the idea on to my partner and a couple of family members who are good friends. We discussed it a lot and decided to go ahead with it. It seemed a perfect fit to our fields of expertise as we accumulatively brought to the table many years of experience in Pilates, web design, production, PR and web-marketing. We had been talking about doing something together for years and here was the perfect opportunity to create a business together.

PilatesOD is a website specifically created for the general public but by doing that it also serves very well the needs of Pilates Teachers. It offers an ever growing library of Pilates classes and exercise videos from beginner to advance level at various lengths varying from 10 minutes to 60 minutes. We have a dedicated section for Pre and Post Natal classes and will be adding other such dedicated sections for other population (or special needs) in the near future. PilatesOD hosts only very experienced Pilates teachers (and teachers of teachers) from all schools of thought. PilatesOD classes are filmed, taught and edited in the most appropriate way for the general public to be used at home, on your own.

The feedback from our members is great. People who didn’t have access to good quality teachers previously can enjoy great classes from the comfort of their own home; people who can afford only one guided class per week can supplement it with home practice online, which benefits them greatly and Pilates teachers who use the service say they can really learn from the website not only what to teach but also how to teach their classes. I believe that other such websites out there assume the viewer is a teacher who only cares about watching a variety of classes and teachers and by doing so they can miss on the actual teaching process and qualities. Because we, at PilatesOD, assume the viewer is not a teacher and is at home on their own, we always do our best to provide them with the best view of what they are required to do, the best cues and teaching points and a real sense of progression. That is also why when “bodies” come to be filmed and are worried about doing the exercises “perfectly”, we reassure them that they should take the class “as normal” and not worry about making mistakes. The mistakes will be corrected by the teacher which benefits the viewers at home! Most people are normal people like you and me and they just want to see normal people making mistakes and being corrected… that’s how we all learn and enjoy the process.

ST: Will the client then not need a teacher? Do you think teachers may be worried about losing clients? 

The idea behind PilatesOD is to support the public who does not have access to good quality Pilates classes and/or supplement one’s practice without replacing their teacher. If you cannot afford to go to classes 2 or 3 times a week, which most people can’t but should, then you can have the additional practice at home a number of times a week for a fraction of the price. And it does not necessarily need to be an hour each time… Additionally, when you live outside London or the bigger cities you don’t have many options. Often, if there is a local Pilates teacher they might be the local personal trainer/ gym instructor who took a weekend in Pilates and are now offering classes in the local health club or church hall. I believe it’s very often better to take classes with very experienced teaches on your TV screen than take classes with a live teacher that’s not properly trained or qualified.

As for teachers who are worried about losing their clients- I strongly believe that when a teacher is well trained and is dedicated to their practice, a web-service will NEVER replace them. The public will always prefer to work with such teachers than with virtual ones. But those clients can still benefit from PilatesOD to supplement their practice as well as on holidays and term breaks!

ST: How do you educate the public that the class they just took and didn’t like was not Pilates “as we know it”?

I think that ultimately the responsibility lies with each individual. This is also what I work very hard to remind my clients in the studio. It is their body, their joy of moving it well or their agony when it is injured. People should research and use their common sense (and intuition) to decide if a teacher is good for them or not. I can only hope that as PilatesOD grows and gets better known, it will give people the chance to compare good quality teaching with what they get from their own teacher. I hope that many people will feel their teacher is great as this is what we all work hard to achieve! But if not… they will have a choice.

ST: Final but very important question – What is your birth sign?

AY: Capricorn

ST: Ah… business brain and very grounded. Of course!

ST: We thank Amit for a fascinating insight to his life and wish him all the very best with his new venture.

ST (Sharon Thompson); AY (Amit Younger)

Read More