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My Pilates Lesson in the House That Joe Built


When I received an offer to do a Pilates session at the True Pilates New York (TPNY), a studio founded by Joseph Pilates himself, I knew I had to try it out. I’m sure glad I did! In addition to getting a great workout that targeted deep core muscles that had apparently been in hibernation, I learned a few interesting things about the nearly 100-year-old method. Here’s a quick primer on my key takeaways:

1. The Reformer is just the beginning. A cool thing about working out at one of the nation’s premier Pilates studios is that it’s fully outfitted with equipment that was designed and used by “Joe” himself. (The instructors at the studio referred to him as Joe, which I adored.) I had previously used a Reformer in classes at my small neighborhood studio, but I had never tested out the array of devices available at TPNY. After 30 minutes on the Reformer, my instructor Tamika Walker introduced me to the Cadillac, a bed outfitted with an array of springs and levers and pulleys hanging overhead, and then the Electric Chair, a high-back seat with handles and foot pedals. Since I’m sure you’re wondering--yes, they look as daunting as they sound, but the movements were deceptively simple. You may not break a sweat, but you’ll be sore for days afterward.

2. There are six secrets to a good Pilates workout. Remember these six things during your next Pilates session: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow. These are the basic principles that the Pilates method is based on, and how you use them can make or break your workout. Each element is equally important, though in my opinion some might take more focus than others. Centering, bringing the focus to the center of the body and “zipping up” the area between the lower ribs and pubic bone during every movement will help make the other five aspects easier to execute. (Not to mention help you sculpt flat Pilates abs.) Precision, maintaining proper alignment through each exercise, is much more achievable with one-on-one instruction.

3. You’re probably walking totally wrong. One of the most eye-opening moments during my hourlong session came after I had stepped off the equipment. Tamika had me stand against the wall and align my body as I had when I was laying on the bed during the lesson. I extended my neck, pulled my shoulders back my shoulders back, tucked in my pelvis, and zipped up my ribs. Then she told me to take a step forward and walk for the rest of the day using the principles of Pilates. It might sound hokey, but I felt like I had just been let in on the secret to perfect ballerina posture. I felt about three inches taller and almost as long and lean as the many dancers who trained with good old Joe over the years.


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