Hi there! Laura Cotler, Going More Joe enthusiast and classical Pilates teacher-to-be here! I’ve taught Pilates since 2001, and although my contemporary education was good, I never quite felt like I fit into that world.
I dipped my toe into the classical Pilates pond a few years ago when I first took a private lesson with Andrea Maida at her Solana Beach studio. It was so different from what I was used to! Those springs were heavy, and that strange silver reformer with the leather straps was so hard to move all the way in! And Andrea didn’t talk at me—she watched me move. Gasp. I wonder what she thought when I told her I wasn’t there for a workout, that I was more interested in how she taught? (OMG, I said that to her!). I think she said, “Interesting,” and went on to put me through a seriously strenuous workout (unbeknownst to me at the time, it was the beginning order; we barely had time to finish because I was so slow).
In November 2017, Going More Joe popped up on my Facebook Feed, and I decided to join the group. I had been following Andrea’s blog for a few years, and I had done the private session with her, so I had an idea of what classical Pilates was. Going More Joe spoke to me—there I found Sunni, a former contemporary teacher like me, who now taught classical Pilates. GMJ also included a group of classical teachers who were willing to answer members’ questions with straightforward and honest answers.
GMJ inspired me to take private internet lessons with Andrea Maida. After learning the practice in my body, I decided to try the order on my clients—a big fat star for yours truly! I received numerous emails and texts from my clients saying how much they loved my “new” teaching style. Also, Pilates-ology has helped me develop my hands-on teaching cues, and my clients have responded so positively. I already give hands-on cues, watching and learning wasn’t a stretch for me—I just needed to apply my knowledge to the classical work I was learning.
Many elements of classical Pilates perfectly suit my teaching style. I’m learning to be quiet, to observe my clients and give only meaningful cues, instead of offering my former steady and constant dialogue. Because there’s a clear system in place, my clients are progressing and getting stronger. I used to cherry pick exercises. Now my students do the entire order (unless there’s a reason not to). My senior group, which ranges in age from 65-79 years old, went from taking the entire hour to do the beginning order to complete it in about 35 minutes. They said to say, “Thanks, Going More Joe!”
Classical Pilates has also affected my life on a more personal level. I was sick for a long time, beginning in 2008. My body gradually deteriorated until I required a motorized cart in Disneyland in August of 2017, the lowest of my lows. I could barely walk across the parking lot to get to my doctor’s office. I’m not sure how I managed to keep teaching throughout that time.
As I started to feel a little better, I was able to begin practicing Pilates again. In about a week I went from barely doing two knees-off-knee stretches (very poorly, I’ll add) to doing the entire beginning reformer order plus some intermediate exercises. In two months time, I was strong enough to do Rowing 1-5 and Front Splits, and now I’m working on tendon stretch to the side and have added all the exercises in Jay Grimes’ order for the assessment for The Work. That I’ve gotten better is just short of a miracle, except it’s not really, because I’ve worked hard for it. My body has gotten so much stronger with the classical work, and because there’s an order, I hop on my mat or reformer and do it. If I miss a day, I’ve found that because of my previous illness, my body hurts. I’ve found that I need Pilates.
Fast forward to today: I’m still taking private lessons with Andrea, Nicole, and Barbara. Through Andrea, I found Vintage Pilates, and I attended Jay Grimes’ Spring Bootcamp at Vintage Pilates in Los Angeles in April. There I did private sessions with Sandy Shimoda, Dena Drotar, Nicole Briggs, Barbara Stamis, Keion Moradi-Means, and others. I did a workshop with Jay called “Find the Double Leg Pull in All of Pilates.” The Double Leg Pull is the epitome of the two-way stretch: it IS in all the exercises! I was also fortunate to do a workshop with Moses Urbano. He taught hands-on assists he learned from Romana and told stories about when he was a student of hers. I love hearing about the history of Pilates. That was also missing from my contemporary training, and I enjoy finding out about the different lineages. I also met Lori Coleman-Brown, who I adore and watch on Pilates-ology every chance I get. I go to Vintage Pilates when I’m in LA visiting family and will go to Fall Camp at Vintage Pilates in September. I tackle my assessments every day, as I plan to assess for The Work with Jay Grimes in the Fall. I’ve never worked so hard as a Pilates student and I’m fully immersed in the classical pond!
The other exciting action GMJ has inspired me to take is to change out my contemporary studio equipment for classical equipment. I now have all new Gratz equipment, which just arrived two weeks ago, including a Reformer, Cadillac, Electric Chair, Wunda Chair, Ladder Barrel, Spine Corrector, Mini Barrel, Pedi-Pole, and a High Mat. I’m the first to have a Gratz studio in the Sacramento area, but I want it to spread and not be limited to just me. Sacramento needs classical Pilates. Right now, I have my studio split in half, with my Gratz equipment on one side and my contemporary on the other. I will open a second, all classical studio, but I need nine more months to accomplish this goal. I consulted with Karen Frischmann about opening a new classical studio, and she was extremely helpful in helping me slow down and take my time. Her advice was a such a gift because I tend to want to do things right away and sometimes one needs to sit back and take time to put things in order, so to make the best decision possible.
Pilates as a system was missing from my body, and I credit Sunni and Going More Joe for helping me to find me again. Thanks to GMJ, I have my life back. Thank you, Sunni! I finally feel like I have a Pilates community where I fit in. I’ve found my tribe!
Laura Cotler is the owner of Lift Pilates. Her mission is to bring the original classical work by Joseph Pilates to the Davis community. She enjoys helping her students learn to move their bodies and to do things they never believed possible! Laura discovered her passion for Pilates as a form of mind-body exercise after her mother died in 1999. She opened Lift Pilates & Post Rehab in 2002, envisioning a space where women and men, Pilates teachers and their students alike, can develop a feeling of strength and acceptance of their bodies that go with them from the Pilates studio into the wider world.
Laura has taught Pilates for over 18 years and has trained with nationally renowned instructors, including Jay Grimes, Andrea Maida, Sandy Shimoda, Karen Frischmann, Elizabeth Larkham, Sherri Betz, and Ron Fletcher, a Pilates elder who worked directly under Joseph Pilates. Laura holds certifications from The Pilates Method Alliance®, Polestar Pilates® and Stott Pilates®.
Currently Laura is studying to assess for the Pilates graduate program “The Work” with the first generation master instructor Jay Grimes.
Through Pilates, Laura teaches her clients how to develop a balanced body, as flexible as it is strong. This approach leads to better posture, a graceful, flowing gait, and a body that moves with ease and in harmony with itself.