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Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 in Becoming a Teacher, Business & Education, Featured, Pilates | 0 comments

The Pilates Apprentice Story – passion and business

The Pilates Apprentice Story – passion and business

Whether 17 years old or 62 years old; initially trained with a classical orientation or contemporary, the experience as an apprentice in the Pilates method is an exhilarating and challenging, yet life-changing experience.

My colleague and I spent a few hours getting to know five teacher-trainees a little better, asking what made them decide to become  Pilates instructors.  What drew them in? What were their goals when finished?  Who inspired them?  Whether West Coast or East Coast trainees, their stories are relatable to all of us.  While their varying answers might seem predictable, “helping others love pilates and wanting to make a difference,” there is another theme that can be found in all their stories.  The desire and ability to have the flexibility of creating their own business doing something that they love, ie., teaching Pilates.

Follow along.  We dug deep to extract a few pithy, take-away points from the commitments each of them gave to the rigor of the training program and challenge of building a business with Pilates.

On the East Coast, Gina Jackson, teacher/studio owner, Pilates4Fitness, spoke briefly with three teachers-in-training about their personal observations. On the West Coast, Lesley Logan, teacher/teacher-trainer, Profitable Pilates, spoke with with two stay-at-home moms that made the transition to Pilates teachers.  Not surprisingly, from the eldest to the youngest, a classical training program was the intended goal of each; ultimately operating a business as an independent and continuing to learn from the industry and their respective mentors and support teachers.

Initially certified by Polestar Pilates, with a Mat and Reformer group class certification only, Angela Paul-Gaito, 38 yr old mother two, says she felt she was

“Missing the comprehensiveness of the teaching system, and ultimately sought out a Balanced Body full apparatus certification.  However, she knew in her heart of hearts, she wasn’t feeling as confident and felt she was missing a link.

Angela  trained in dance with Master Teacher, Matt Mattox, and as a certified student with the Alvin Ailey school, she performed around the world in the french musical “Notre Dame de Paris”.  I was part of the creation team of “A New Day”, Celine Dion’s show in Belgium and Las Vegas and worked as a free-lance dancer for various companies, theater and TV projects.  She was introduced to Pilates thru dance with the Alvin Ailey company as a 19-year old,  she says, however,  the benefit of the work didn’t connect until 10 years later when she needed to  “reform” her body after her first child was borne.  “I became very aware of all the great benefits as a dancer, a teacher but most importantly as a woman.  Time of maturity was the right time.”



Angela states, the biggest challenge to her as a Classical teacher-trainee was “forgetting or letting go” of all the previous contemporary training references.  She owns/operates her own studio in Newburgh, NY since 2012, and counts as her mentor influencers Ann Toran, Fabrice Lamego and Jennifer Kries.

In fact, it was Jennifer Kries that convinced her of the importance of the classical system, and in 2015 she started a bridging program with Juliet Harvey, Beacon Pilates, to improve my practice and knowledge on the classical form of the Pilates method.

Consistently, students are greatly influenced to find or follow the path to teaching by their exposures and mentors.  Whether drawn to the Pilates teaching path by either health or physical injury, or following the lead of friend, colleague or relative, the recognition of the depth of the method and specifically, the classical approach to teaching is a profound awakening.

“The Pilates apprentice experience is an incredible learning journey, no matter what programme is selected.  Everyone starts off in a group at the same time.  Then life happens.  It’s windy trails intersect with the apprentice journey and don’t stope even when you become an instructor.” Lesley Logan, Profitable Pilates

Jen Hilton of Encino, CA, a “stay-at-home”  mom, who was seeking a part-time Pilates teaching career.  She chose the Equinox Pilates teacher training program after much research.

Key to her success in the experience, she says was having amazing support from her family, as she balanced being a wife and a mother of three, while traveling all over Los Angeles to complete her required apprenticeship hours. During her time as an apprentice she found the instructors she calls her mentors, Carrie Samper, Susannah Todd and Ashley Hoffman.

Her best day as an apprentice, she states “when I finally got it and felt like teaching was starting to glow.” Always a positive spirit she cannot think of one “worst day,” however, as all instructors can relate, there were a “few days of exhaustion and feeling completely overwhelmed.”

Jen’s selection of the Equinox Training program, coupled with her personal goals for completion, helped her prepare for the business side of teaching. Before she completed the program, she had a targeted dream studio in mind and an interview set up.  She utilized her time observing in the training studio with the specific intention of noting great examples of what works and doesn’t work when developing a Pilates teaching business.   Her 10-year goal, “I’m hoping to still be teaching part-time but as a fabulous experienced teacher.”

Another Equinox Pilates Teacher Trainee, Jenny Latham of West Hollywood, CA, is a 40-year old mother, interior designer and fit model.  She chose the program based on her experience as a member of the studio/gym.   She states that the teacher/client relationship drew her in and and mentor/teacher trainer relationship with Carrie Samper, helped pull her through the program.

When asked to describe a dream client, she said, “one who is open and willing to change their body.”  Further, “in 10 years I’ll be 50, so I don’t want to think about that, but, I would love to be more confident in my body and my teaching, so I can work with women/men like myself who are adapting to their changing bodies.”

“When I finished my program I was elated and a little tired. Six hundred  hours in nine months while working 50-hours a week across running back and forth across town. I left with a certificate and immediately signed up for the upcoming PMA conference. I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” states Logan, who teaches workshops on How to Sell Pilates.   While the start or initial driver that brings one into becoming a Pilates instructor differed for everyone, the end takeaway is the same.  There is so much more learning in the process. To be a Pilates instructor is to be a student of the method for life.

daniel-profileDaniel Alvarado, 19 years old, was the youngest apprentice in Alycea Ungaro’s New York Real Pilates Teacher Training program, and the only male in the group we interviewed.  Danny, is the nephew of Real Pilates NYC, Senior Teacher Trainer, Juan Estrada and as a result, has a high bar to surpass with all the mentors he has in his corner; Alycea Ungaro, Bob Leikens, Carrie Campbell Clark, Stephanie West, Anna Clark, and Bethannie Redinger.

He describes his best day as one filled with teaching moments, where he mistakenly thought he had a “rest day” and suddenly found out he was scheduled to teach

“Four classes in a row and take a private session for myself afterwards. On this same day I taught my first duet and then a trio session following it.  The closest thing to the worst day was having to deal with 3 fully- energized teenager girls.”

Daniel is already teaching at Real Pilates in both the Tribeca and SOHO studio locations as well as two gym studios in Manhattan and Long Island City and has the freedom and time to hone and refine his skills with an active teaching and personal practice schedule.  However, building a client base, he recognizes will come over time.

“I am not ashamed to say, I recognise the ‘student-apprentice’ in myself at every session I have with a senior or master teacher” Gina Jackson, Pilates4fitness.

While experience is the best teacher, being a good teacher, or having access to the highest quality training programs, may not create the requisite experience, exposure or training for building a successful business as an instructor or a business owner.  It’s really the next layer of the apprentice programming that we see is noticeably absent and true of the entrepreneurial experience as a business owner.

Jennifer Cayenne, was first introduced to Pilates following an injury of her spine. She states she fell in love with the system after three sessions at a Montclair, NJ studio.

As a 62-year old IT Project Manager, she researched and found the United States Pilates Association teacher training program and specifically began a trainee-mentee relationship with Brett Howard and Pamela Dejohn.

jennifer-cayenneWith a long-term goal of operating a boutique Pilates Studio in her native home of Trinidad & Tobago,  Jennifer’s  short term plans are to seek teaching positions at various local studios to explore different teaching techniques and styles and build client/business experience and relationships.

Mentoring relationships and small-business training and programming would greatly serve teacher-trainees.  Small business planning, marketing, promotion and new business development are acknowledged as key elements crucial to running a successful studio or independent instructor business.   However these are generally well beyond the scope of most highly regarded teacher-training programs.

When asked what you wish you knew about the Pilates business side of teaching, Jennifer stated,

“I wish I knew how to find my own niche in the Pilates business since I’ve never run a business before.  My expectations upon completion are to teach one-on-one at multiple locations to expand my clientele, and to further progress to teaching group classes.”

Angela, who runs a successful studio already in Newburg, NY, observed that she had to learn the hard way,
“Being too nice, too timid with goal of  “wooing” clients and building relationships may actually make it harder for yourself in the long run.  I realized that I needed to keep focus on my own limits in the relationship and transaction.  I need to stop trying to be a friend and work toward being their teacher.”

Like Jennifer, Jackson states she transitioned from a corporate life very foreign to the typical dancer-apprentice.   “As a former general manager and corporate business leader, I made the transition from selling or managing  “widgets” in corporate America to teaching and selling the goodness and benefits of life with Pilates.”

Further, Jackson states, “I was lucky, that my former experiences gave me a foundation and the confidence to step out to operate an independent, small business that in some ways to most new teachers, may feel as daunting as the apprentice test-out itself. “

Learning never ends.  To be a Pilates instructor is to be a student of the method for life. Contemporary systems training leads one to classical refinements. Intermediate work leads to advanced transitions.  Bowen did it different than Grimes; and we all seek to deliver the best quality instruction with each client/student relationship.
The business of teaching Pilates, however, requires another set of ABCs, tools, workshops and learning experiences.  The importance and value of establishing business policies, building business relationships, acquiring clients, retaining them, communicating with them via a website, newsletter and social media and being the floor and mat cleaner  – all at the same time  – have equal weight with being the principal teacher, independent contractor or Pilates studio owner.

Stay tuned for Part II of the apprentice story – The business side of teaching Pilates.

Co-Authors & Collaborators Gina and Lesley found each other via social media and their common love of connection, Pilates and blogging.

Lesley Logan, a PMA Certified Master Pilates Instructor and has been
studying and teaching Joseph Pilates Classical Method since 2005 and 2008 respectively.  She has also been featured in Pilates Style Magazine and recently was admitted into “The Work,” a masters program taught by one of Joseph Pilates elders, Jay Grimes. Maintaining that Pilates is a unique practice that is good for every body, Lesley tailors the method for each individual client.  Connect with Lesley via

ginajacksonGina Jackson, Director/Owner, Pilates4Fitness Movement Space, West New York, NJ, has been teaching, coaching and training for more than fifteen years and loves the challenge of helping others find their center with Pilates. Certified by Power Pilates, New York, NY,  connect with Gina via


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Posted by on Nov 11, 2015 in Pilates, Reviews | 0 comments

The Missing Link

The Missing Link

The Missing Link – Shari Berkowitz and the Pilates Teacher Intensives.

You know when you feel there is something you are missing, something you know will be simple and a golden bullet, but you just can’t quite make it simple enough to see it or feel it. This has been my experience of teaching Pilates, very frustrating and actually stressful . The kind of underlying stress that you can’t name.

I’ve been a client and a teacher in the Pilates world for around seven and a half years.  I always thought Pilates was amazing and knew it had many many answers to modern maladies that effect us as modern humans. Still I remained unsatisfied that it was truly focused deep enough on the most important thing, ‘structure ‘.

There is a phrase used in osteopathy, which covers this “Structure governs form, form governs structure”.  As a life long martial artist I had the good fortune to be taught by a very astute Wing Chun teacher, who taught me that all the fancy looking and flamboyant moves in that field were only good if they could be used to break the opponent’s structure.  Pilates teachers, as would be healers of musculoskeletal dysfunction could learn some thing from this approach, obviously in reverse. I have been a real seeker of this disturbing missing link, what I thought was a great system of beautiful form but with little understanding of modern thought on functional structure.  I don’t get into the classical vs. modern debate, although without classical you don’t have the experience of seeing the overall idea and genius of Mr. Pilates work .  I have explored in depth the linages of Kathy Grant and Eve Gentry with some fantastic teachers like Cara Reeser , Blossom Leilani Crawford , Deb Kolwey and Michelle Larsson. I love the work in those systems and I use it daily but I still felt there was a link missing. What was it you ask ? Well in quantum physics there is a thing called Superstring theory that links all of existence together . That was it, how do I link everything together and how do I find that?

Well of course the answer was Facebook.  A friend posted a piece from Shari Berkowitz.  I had heard of her but knew nothing about her .  The piece was about not ‘Squeezing sitz bones together” . I posted to Shari that it was about time someone with clout said that this was, at best lazy ineffective cueing, at worse potentially harmful to the body . Thus a friendship was started and I was invited by this lovely lady for coffee when she was in London . Now this is a world famous teacher who had time to share on a busy weekend teaching with someone she didn’t know . That alone impressed me so I signed up for the course –  not even knowing what it was about . It wasn’t cheap either but I trusted my gut feeling and boy am I glad.

I have to this date (October 2015) completed two of the series of five seminars called Pilates Teacher Intensives. Each seminar is 3 days long, with homework as an option. It’s been transformational in my understanding of the body from a viewpoint of modern biomechanics. Shari’s research clearly shows the chains of events that makes the body either work or not work.  What is that you say, what secret does she have?   It’s called science. The work is based around how the body needs to function by using the lowest abdominals to engage the small muscles of the lumbar area . Why? To enable a change in and around the use of the Thoracolumbar Fascia (TLF). With all of the upper and lower body feeding though this amazing structure we can use it to help the body release holding patterns and even de-rotate the pelvis.

Now this was a big one for me as I have significant damage and rotations due to ankle and knee injuries.  I had tried everything I could to spot train and strengthen those areas , inner leg –outer hip etc . Nothing worked but with this new work doing The Hundred felt like I was using a foot corrector.

That was it I was hooked! Having just finished the second weekend of the training I wanted to share how clear and well thought out Shari’s work is . It is classical with the only remit being does this anatomically work? Isn’t this what we all should be asking when performing or teaching  Pilates?  My feeling is that we have bought into either too much medical input and then don’t move bodies  or we stick dogmatically to what our teachers (who mean well) say.  How much of this is hearsay or rote learning that is justified by that lovely catch all “let the system work”.

I’m very aware that this is a personal statement but I have seen a lot of this kind of teaching and it doesn’t provide credibility to our profession. Since I have done the Vertical Workshop training I have had so much positive feedback from clients who’s bodies feel released and much more comfortable.  Mostly because they are working from a more integrated structure they look taller, wider and freer around the shoulders. No one teacher has all the answers and it’s all a great journey but I just wanted to share what a thoroughly interesting and fresh take on the Pilates this has been.  The whole system has been examined and thought about, structure foremost down to how to teach the first second or third repetition of an exercise has been thought of and reconsidered . No fuss no fluff straight up like a good single malt.

Like a single malt it will take time to mature in my teaching but I feel like I have shifted my understanding of Pilates enormously already. I cannot say thank you enough to Shari  or recommend her enough. Try at least the first weekend, just to feel your feet wobble on shaky ground that will make you curious for more . Enjoy.

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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


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 Feb 9, 2015 in Featured, Interviews, Pilates | 0 comments

Interview with Rachel Taylor Segel

Interview with Rachel Taylor Segel

Tell us a bit about you

I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, in the mid west of America. I have two siblings and my sister, Amy Taylor Alpers, who is my partner, is 6 years younger than I. We both were ballet dancers  and lucky to have good teachers and ambitious ones – who put on annual Nutcrackers and tours of the local region. We had a lot of performance experience through high school. I gave up on dance for a while and when Amy graduated she went to Julliard in New York City and worked as a professional dancer.

I moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1973 and started dancing again and began teaching ballet; for about 11 years I was the director of a dance school outside Denver.  Then in 1986 I moved to New York City where my sister and my brother, , were living. My brother ,who is 4 years younger than I am, works for the UN. I came to New York not to dance but to learn Pilates, My sister – bless her always! –  was integral in helping me get settled and also in helping me find a job with her at the Lincoln Center Dance Collection Library. I also taught ballet at the Alvin Ailey School.

As I said, one of my main reasons for coming to New York was to study Pilates with Romana Kryzanowska –  and we both are so glad we did. We feel really fortunate to have gone to her first, and also to have gone in the years that we did because she was so happy and so generous and none of the political stuff had happened yet. Both Amy and I studied Pilates every week, 3 times a week.

After about 2 ½ years I got married then moved back to Boulder when our job at the Library was over.  All those many years before New York, my sister and her husband would visit me in Boulder and would always say. “When we leave New York we are coming here”. So, finally, they moved to Boulder also.

One day in the spring of 1990,  Amy and I were sitting on her front porch swing, like little kids, talking about what we wanted to do, what kind of  jobs did we wanted to do. Amy was teaching ballet, I didn’t want to do that anymore, and then she said she wanted to open a Pilates studio, so I agreed to help her.  What had stopped us until then , was the difficulty getting studio equipment. The west coast equipment did not work with classical Pilates; you had to do so many modifications that it just wasn’t an option. Back then, Romana seemed to keep it secret who built her equipment. Then one day Amy went back to New York to catch up with friends and take some Pilates lessons when she bumped into Steve Giordano carrying a barrel under his arm – he was one of Romana’s teachers and was, I think, in charge of a Pilates studio in a dance school in a New York college.

Steve was given permission by Romana to make equipment. And he was taking all the designs and dimensions straight from her original Joe equipment in the New York studio.  So Amy met him, talked with him and the outcome was that he would make all of our equipment. He would even come to Boulder to make it here as well as help us begin our teacher training programme the next year. We were so excited I cannot explain! He already had experience teaching/apprenticing new teachers and was going to help Romana formalise her teacher training, which up to this point had been apprenticeship-based. Anyway, we still have a couple of our original equipment in the studio today! They were fabulous.

At the same time he was helping Romana build a teaching training programme he introduced Romana to Sean Gallagher who became her business partner and was the one who eventually caused the law suit.……

So Steve stayed with us for about 3 years and then he returned to New York to teach, and Amy and I were on our own! For those first three years or so, Romana would come once or twice a year to do the lectures in our studios.  She would teach our lectures and we would learn how she was doing it, and she would do the examinations for our programme, and we were apprenticing with her to do that.

When Sean became her business partner he started sending cease and desist letters to people who  said they taught Pilates. He was trying to defend some previous Pilates trademarks that he had bought from Wee Tai Hom and therefore he said that  if someone used the name “Pilates”, they had to pay him money. And because we were graduates of Romana’s-  we had her name signed on our diplomas with her previous partner, Wee Tai Hom, we were not going to pay Sean any money to keep up our “certification” as he called it at the time, and so we were kind of  ex communicated. Every year he would send us one of these letters but he never sued us. This was because Romana’s previous business partner owed Amy some money, about $1500,  for some reformers and we had proof of this, so we wrote Wee Tai a letter and we said for that $1500 dollars we wanted the use of the name Pilates  “because we are going to call ourselves The Pilates Center, we want you to sign a letter that says that that’s ok”,  and so he did!  During the entire court proceedings, we were on neutral ground, like Switzerland during the war, because we had this letter that said we could teach Pilates, we could use the word Pilates in our marketing even though we were not part of Sean’s organisation.  Eventually he lost that law suit and the word Pilates became generic – for better or for worse.

Here in the UK there is a lot of talk about classical Pilates and often its interpreted as – if you are not classical,  you are really not practising Pilates. What is your interpretation of classical and do you consider yourself classical? 

We do consider ourselves classical, absolutely, because we believe in Joe’s original method and in Romana, although the term “classical” is new in the field of Pilates, Romana didn’t use that word; Joe certainly never used that word, Pilates was Pilates. After the law suit was done and the word became generic anybody could say they taught Pilates and anybody did.  Romana was very upset about that, as were we actually. Because we had spent a lot of time and effort and money and everything else to become well-trained as teachers and so many people were saying they were Pilates teachers and took a day workshop or a two day workshop or even a two week workshop –  it didn’t matter, or took a mat workshop and thought they were Pilates teachers. So the word classical Pilates came about, not even I think from Romana’s group but maybe from some of her graduates. It was developed to show the difference between people who studied with Romana or someone like her, who did not change the work and were committed to teaching exactly as Joe had taught the work. That was her commitment, always from beginning to end (whether she changed something or not) was that this was Joe’s work . She would say,“I’m not the creator I am only teaching what he taught.” Where as many of the other elders went their own direction with Pilates, built their own such as Fletcher work, Gentry work – Cathy Grant would always say ‘I do whatever I can to get dancers back on the stage, and then when their injuries are almost healed, then I start teaching them Pilates’. So the difference  is that classical Pilates teachers  learned everything, all the equipment and all the exercises (of course new ones always keep coming up from archival film,) but this term differentiates  them from people who were creating exercises based on Pilates as they went. Originally it was east coast versus west coast, it was that simple, and people from the west coast worked out of St Francis hospital and had much more of a PT approach to their Pilates, but eventually it was even more generic than that.

If you were a classical teacher, you did the series in the order Joe had laid down,  with breath and the tempo, and you read Return to Life  and you knew about Joe Pilates. Many people didn’t even know who Joe Pilates was and  yet they were supposedly teaching Pilates. So classical Pilates teachers always were the ones who thought of it as full body, aerobic, very much breath oriented, with great mental awareness not pulled apart or done slowly,  – it was a method that they were not going to play around with.

I respect teachers who teach good movement that is Pilates based, and I think yay, human beings are learning good movement – whether they call it Pilates or not at least they are learning good movement. I have grown more generous around that myself. But also I do believe that if someone learns the classical work first, and they learn it from a good teacher, then they have so vast a library of material that they don’t need to make up new exercises – they are satisfied with the tool they already own and rightly so.  In my 24 years of teaching I have maybe made up two things and I can directly  trace them from another exercise. I have never felt the need to do it. I think that is because I trained with Romana first and I knew it as a method and I knew how to integrate the equipment,  I had the freedom to modify if needed, but because I knew so many exercises I didn’t need to create new ones.

You have travelled all over the world, how do you still keep filling people with passion and keeping the passion yourself?

Well I keep doing Pilates myself with as much of a fresh mind as possible and playfully as I can even though I don’t mean it to sound like I am not caring at all – I am very present and specific but explorative when I do my work, and I am explorative when I teach my clients, so I expect to learn something every time I teach and that keeps me excited. I love teaching teachers, and that keeps me excited.  Amy and I have a mission for our business, which is to really change the world by empowering people through Pilates and we do that on a day to day basis with clients and with teachers.

When you are at home do you tend to teach more to Pilates teachers or the public?

It’s probably about 50/ 50.

I know this is a difficult one, especially when you have got so many exercises at your disposal,  but if you had to pick one exercise that you hate because you know it’s good for you and also the exercise  that makes you go ‘ahh, that’s so good ’.

Well, I would say my favourite mat exercise now is the Boomerang because it’s so full body it is hard to do, but you’re moving all of you  in different ways at the same time and it is increasing readily, your abilities, and so much is happening that you can’t over think it. That’s what I really appreciate about the advanced work in general  in Pilates. The exercise that I sort of hate would be something like Stomach Jumps on the high barrel because I just don’t do it, so I am just a little nervous about doing it. But, mostly if I am not in good enough shape at any given time of my week, month, year, I do the lesser exercises but I think of them as advanced. I think of them as the boomerang or as the inversions.

Do you have any hobbies?rachel taylor segel

Well I have two children so I don’t really have any hobbies right now. My oldest is a sophomore in college and my youngest is  16, so I am still really involved with their lives particularly my high schooler and I run a business with my sister and travel all over and teach. So really no, I don’t have any time for hobbies! But before, I used to garden and I like to paint.

Maybe you will get back to that one day.

Maybe I will! 

Is there anything you could tell us that no one else knows about you? 

I love sports cars, I don’t have one now but my first car was a Triumph Spitfire, my second was an Alfa Romeo, my third was a Masda RX 7, I did have a serviceableToyota in there somewhere. My fourth was a Miata!

Rachel Taylor Segel, teacher trainer and co owner, along with her sister Amy Taylor Alpers, at The Pilates Center, Boulder, Colorado.

Thank you so much it has been really lovely meeting you.

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