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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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in Body & Mind, Health, Interviews, Pilates | 0 comments

A Pilates-Art-Creativity Dialogue

A Pilates-Art-Creativity Dialogue

How did you become an artist?

Art and beauty have always been my passion. My first words as a child, was to ask for the moon, as I wanted to bring its glowing light down to earth!  At the age of 4 my parents brought me to a Kandinsky exhibition at the Guggenheim and I jumped around with joy! I was magnetically drawn to art to explore and express the beauty and rhythms I felt through being alive. I trained at Camberwell College of Art and Goldsmiths College during which time I was fascinated by sculpting the human form in clay, at a time when everyone was very political and writing on canvases. I wanted to make creations that were beauty-filled and I felt out of place in that era, so I took a year off. It took me 30 years to return, this time to the Art Academy in London to complete my fine art training.

In between, I trained to be a State Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, captivated by the body and how to help people transform their experience of life on all levels. I then worked for UCL’s Health Behaviour Unit focusing on psychological methods to change lifestyle behaviours, and subsequently applied my learning in the NHS in a wide range of contexts.

As Lead Mental Health Dietitian/Nutritionist for a Borough in London, I initiated a Food and Mood Group in which we helped patients to identify their life passion, connect to this and then substitute this for unhelpful or self-harming eating behaviours. We encouraged physical activity, singing, writing, painting, sculpting, anything creative connecting to their individual passions, to transcend their problems.

During this process I reconnected to my own passion for art, and realized that I actually wanted to be doing it – focusing on nutrition of the soul, as well as the body.

So after over 20 years as a clinician, I went back to college and retrained as an artist.

Why did you decide to practice Pilates?

I have always been interested and explored integrating the physical with mental, emotional and spiritual levels.  More recently, I was interested in developing core strength and this was particularly important after a knee injury.  I find it easy to connect to non-physical ethereal realities but I know that to be truly integrated we must fully embrace the physical level, to express the subtler forms.  I love a challenge and now I am applying that to inviting my body to be as fit as it can be and be truly grounded.   In the same way I challenge myself to be the best I can be, and work towards transforming areas of resistance to this.

What is the effect on your body of Pilates?

I feel stretched, elongated, more centred and grounded and I am really enjoying my physical body in a way that I had not been able to previously.   I feel more present, more alive and more expanded.   My body tends to be hypermobile and I easily overextend without realizing it.  Pilates is helping me to learn to bring myself into a more balanced stable state physically.  Simultaneously I work to apply this experience mentally to bring extremes of experience to a central balance.

What impact has Pilates had on your art?

My initial passion in art was sculpting the human figure with clay, then painting icons and oil painting.  My most recent focus has been on light art, creating optical sculptures with thermoplastics and then uniting this with newer low energy light, projection, digital and interactive technologies.  The result is a versatile kinetic art medium that transforms architectural surfaces into live performances with dynamic light effects that respond to peoples’ movements. The resulting installation creates an infinitely changing, interactive, immersive light and colour experience.

Working with light is one extreme and quite ethereal and since starting to do pilates and focusing on the physical, to counterbalance this I have been feeling a renewed interest in working with clay. Below is a model for a larger sculpture that I am currently working on.  Although it is in clay it is about lightness!   My light art is about the heavens, the clay work is about the earth and in time I aim to unite these two polarities.  I am gradually bringing the elongation, opening and balance that I experience during pilates into expression through my artwork.   By becoming more aware and present in my physical body, I hope to express the connectedness and openness to both the heavens and the earth.  By doing so, I hope my pieces will become a source of contemplation and inspiration for others.

Both within my own art practice and my workshop facilitation, I seek to inspire, enable connectedness and illumination through aligning with the invisible, interconnected rhythmic communication that permeates all things. Movement, emergence, and discovery may be facilitated, potentially enabling expression and connection where it had previously been disabled.  For me, Pilates reinforces this process.

What are your aspirations for the future?

As I become increasingly attuned to my body and being fully here now, I hope to increasingly transmit this via my artwork, in whichever form I am working in.  Also I plan to increasingly facilitate creative workshops, which I already offer at the Art Academy, and throughout the country by invitation.

Acknowledgement

I would like to thank Sharon Thompson of Essentially Pilates for her caring, supportive and excellent approach to opening the Pilates world to me.

Light Portal 1.  Limited Edition Print.  Photo of Light Sculpture.  © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015

Light Portal 1. Limited Edition Print. Photo of Light Sculpture. © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015

Maquettes for larger sculpture © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015 Masking Tape & Wire

Maquettes for larger sculpture © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015 Masking Tape & Wire

Maquettes for larger sculpture ‘Preparing for Flight’ © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015 Wax & Wire

Maquettes for larger sculpture ‘Preparing for Flight’ © Lorna Carmen McNeill 2015 Wax & Wire

 

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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

Amit

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)

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Posted by on Mar 5, 2015 in Featured, Interviews, Pilates, Social, Workshops and Further Education | 0 comments

Pilates on Tour – The Beginning

Pilates on Tour – The Beginning

with Nora St. John and Al Harrison of Balanced Body

 

Interviewers: Sharon Thompson (ST), Monica Zarebska (MZ)

Respondents: Nora St. John (NSJ), Al Harrison (AH)

While enjoying yet another fabulous year at Pilates on Tour, back in April 2014, we caught up with Nora and Al to find out more how Pilates on Tour came to be.

ST: We would love to know how, and why, you started this great event?

NSJ: Pilates on Tour came out off a conference I was already doing with a colleague from Body Mind Spirit in 2002. At the time that was the really big Pilates conference in the U.S.  One day I had this idea of wanting to bring all my favourite teachers together.  So no big venue, no big numbers – just teachers. I mentioned this idea to this gal, who has a conference production background and told her this at lunch on Saturday and she came on Sunday and said I have the Santa Clara Convention Center booked for a year from now!

NSJ: She told me – It’s ten rooms, 750 people, and I was like…really?…okay…So then I was off and running with programming Pilates conferences and because they really, hadn’t happened before I just called up all my friends and said: Okay so you teach Mat and you teach this and you teach that and would you like to teach? It was also thanks to Al, my husband here, he put together a database to manage registration.

Al put together this database and figured out how to register 750 people for different classes from all over the world. And at that point I’d known Kenny (Endleman) from Balanced Body since I began teaching Pilates in 1989 in San Francisco, so I called him and said “I have an idea to do this big conference and can you bring a whole load of Pilates equipment for us”? …and he was foolish enough to say yes! Neither of us had done anything like this before.

We agreed to have Balanced Body as the exclusive equipment supplier, it made a lot of sense and they were willing to do it. They were also close as San Francisco and Sacramento are only two hours apart. We did this for 3 years and then for a variety of reason we didn’t continue with that project. Al and I then came up with a business plan for Pilates on Tour and take a conference all over the country (and world).

NSJ: In fact I called up Kenny and said I just want to let you know I’m done with Body Mind and Spirit, I’m not going to do that anymore and he said, which is very unlike Kenny ‘What’s next?’ And I said well I have this other idea…..

Then we started Pilates on Tour in 2004. The first event was San Francisco in July and then we did New York and Los Angeles that same year. We did eight the next year…

MZ: So you are the mother and father of Pilates on Tour? 🙂

NSJ: We are. Yes, it’s fantastic actually. Then I think the first international event we did was…Rome? Or was it Hong Kong? So yes, although we’re a US company we sell in different countries also because, of course, Pilates is big everywhere. I’m not going to say we sell a lot in those countries but we sell something in a lot of countries…

Al Harrison: We have had people asking us for years to bring the event to ‘them’. Everywhere in the world. But sometimes it’s hard to bring it to them, you can see all the equipment we have in use here at this event ( London 2014) and that would have to be shipped somewhere. We also have to store it and get it in and out of venues. So we need to go to places where it’s possible to do that. So for that first event we had a really great distributer in Rome who said they could support us. And we need that support because ofthe language barrier. Customer service, for example, is really important and we can’t do that without translation.

MZ: How do you find the dynamics of the event from one place to another – is it different doing it in the States to doing it in Europe – do you have to adjust it a little bit?

NSJ: You know it’s oddly not that different. I’ve travelled all over with Pilates and teachers are kind of the same everywhere. They are always curious, interested in the body, always interested in new stuff. I mean they always love Pilates on Tour because we bring equipment, so it’s not just a Mat conference which many of them now are. So they really get to play and they really get to be on a Reformer, Cadillac and Chair. Of course we certainly notice little differences so, for example, in Asia generally, they learn in a different way in which they’re interested in being part of things, you find very dedicated students who learn absolutely everything you say and commit it to memory. Very studious. It’s a very different learning style.

AH: The ratio of male to female students in Asia is also higher than in other places. There are always a lot more men doing Pilates than compared to somewhere like the UK. We also notice that in other countries, for instance, we go to Turkey in Istanbul there are also a lot of men, they make up something like 30% of our event.

ST: That surprises me.

AH: Well Pilates is considered a guy thing there. That’s an example of some of the kinds of changes we notice. The other thing that is interesting is, especially when we come somewhere for the first time, there is a certain energy about the event. Then we come the second time and the energy is very different, the first time everyone is trying to figure out who’s who and what’s where, then they show up the second time and they’re already best friends. This means that the atmosphere kind of softens up each time we visit a place again.

Nora explains that the Tour gives a teacher an opportunity to consider what they love, whether it be one to one training, group training, they get the opportunity to explore an element that they may not have thought about before. She says it can take some years of teaching to find what you truly love..

MZ: If someone trains with you do they then need to follow the ‘franchise mothership’?

NSJ: No. We have our particular approach because we’re Balanced Body, but all of our students can take contuing education anywhere they want. They could take it with STOTT, Body Control, Michael King… with Pro Star with an osteopath college or whatever.

MZ: That’s an interesting approach. Often, if you take up teacher training with certain schools you have to follow that particular format but you allow for that bit of freedom and independence of thinking …

NSJ: I think that’s important and that’s how I trained.

MZ: If someone wants to become a teacher trainer for Balanced Body – how does that work?

NSJ:  Pilates is our foundation basic programme, we also have CoreAlign which is a three module programme, MOTR which is a two day programme and Bohdi suspension system and Barre which are also two day programmes. Then there is Anatomy in Three Dimensions – so we have all those that we teach. To get to a Faculty position, people generally come to us but sometimes we approach them. Myself, or one of my closest colleagues and master instructors, will then teach them how to teach it to students. So they do repertoire, they do teaching practice, we do a lot of a lot of teaching drills, they do presentations which we then critique them on. The focus is always teaching the craft of Pilates but also teaching the principles behind it. I always look for people who are not just regular teachers but educators.

Nora tells us a bit about her history and that she started at St Frances Hospital in 1988 as a client and then she started teaching.  It was very much a medical environment and Pilates was very new on the West Coast and she taught to the body in front of her.

NSJ  I started with Romana, studied with Carola , and with Eve Gentry quite a bit, Alan Herdman, and a man named Jean Claude West who is a Californian – We started Pilates the traditional way with all those elders and other people but we also basically did what we needed to do in the studio. I personally learned that Pilates is a very modifiable system which is the principles of good movement. So, for example, if I was going to get somebody’s core to activate but they couldn’t flex their spine, or lift their head, or flex their knees – how was I going to do that? It was a learning process with no manuals. You would go to the seminars and you would make crazy drawings and you hope remembered everything.That’s pretty much how it was at that time. I trained by just working with a million clients for a million years and trying to make Pilates work for them and make their move pattern better within a Pilates environment. It wasn’t learning in a particularly dogmatic fashion and that wasn’t and isn’t, my style.

ST: Tell us a little bit more about Al and Nora… We’ve  heard all about the Pilates and now we want to hear about you, a skeleton in the cupboard perhaps?

AH: I think I picked the wrong table to lunch on!

NSJ: Well here we go… I’m cranky when I’m not in public, most people thing I’m the calmest person in the world because they only see me in public. So this is like my secret, my public face is one way and those I work with closely and who know me see another side.

ST: I think we’re all a bit like that aren’t we?

AH: She’s not actually…she’s always good. (all laugh). I love to bicycle and Ken Endelaman I do a big charity ride each year for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Foundation.

MZ: Do have a hobby or different activity that you do together?

NSJ: We cook. I love to cook and also I love being outside actually. More, I think, than most Pilates instructors. It seems many would prefer the five star hotel to the camping experience and I’m kind of a camper. I love being outside. Al and I, we walked the El Camino de Santiago 500 miles across the north of Spain for our 50th Birthdays.

ST: How long did that take?

NSJ: About 35 days…it’s like 12 – 18 miles a day.

AH: 800 km, 500 miles…

MZ: That’s amazing!

ST: So what’s the next thing? Is there something else in the pipeline?

AH: There’s no magical products. If you look at our strategy, we’ve got Pilates and then we’ve added things like CoreAlign we’ve added things like MOTR and Bodhi. But what’s really cool is that we’re adding them all in with a Pilates sensibility so it’s not like we just need a rope system. For example there’s things you can do on a suspension system that you can’t do on a Pilates machine and if you approach the suspension system with a Pilates sensibility you’re doing the same work your just using a different tool and it’s not like you now need to think just suspension, you’re not thinking Suspension, your just thinking about the principles. So we’ve been adding things in that support and grow Pilates and over time we’ll add more things. There isn’t a huge next step at this point.

NSJ: We’re more interested in absorbing what we have, and where we are, at this moment to be quite honest with you.

ST: We can see that the events are definitely getting bigger and bigger with more people each year which is great! Will you definitely be coming back to the UK next year?

AH: Yeah!

ST: Excellent! We look forward to seeing you.

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