What is the first image that pops up in your head when you hear “Pilates studio”? I bet you were thinking about a Pilates Reformer, after all it is the most recognized piece of Pilates apparatus.
Despite hands-down popularity of the Reformer these days we often forget that Pilates (Contrology back then) started with just mat work. Joseph Pilates put together the first version of the Trapeze table (the Cadillac) by rigging springs up to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance. He later invented the Reformer with the intention of providing the needed resistance during movement to improve proprioceptive feedback and keeps the body alert and working in all portions of movement.
Well, that was a little piece of history for you, but today I want to bring you down to the basics of the Pilates workout – the mat and the springs. And I am talking to Alycea Ungaro, the published authority in Pilates and the owner of RealPilates NYC. (Was Alycea’s book Pilates: Body in Motion(aff link) one of your first introductions to Pilates? It sure was for me and I keep learning from her through her Pilates column at About.com)
1. Alycea, most of the Pilates community can easily call you the Pilates “mat” expert. You have written several books, taught successful mat classes at your studio and now share your Pilates knowledge on About.com. In your opinion, what is the power of the Pilates mat work?
The power of the Pilates mat work is twofold. First, is the sheer accessibility. There is a version of every move for every body at every level. Second is the multipurpose nature of the method. The mat work is your body weight strength training, your flexibility training, your functional training and your core training all rolled into one marvelously efficient workout.
2. A lot of studio owners struggle to add mat classes to their schedules. Mat classes are often viewed as inferior to the apparatus classes. What is your advice on starting/marketing successful Pilates mat classes?
Marketing successful Pilates classes is simply about messaging. The word Pilates has become diluted so pick a theme and sell it. If you want to focus on strength or a body part or a goal such as core training for triathletes, use that verbiage in your descriptions. Despite its popularity, Pilates still eludes most people. Be sure to spell out what it is they can expect in class.
3. As the author of several Pilates books and numerous articles, what are your top tips for establishing a successful Pilates practice at home?
To enjoy Pilates at home follow some of Joe Pilates original principles.
- Control and concentration are key to your schedule, your setup and your approach to each exercise.
- Designate a specific schedule and assign a distraction free work space.
- Begin each exercise with an internal dialogue in order to become your own best teacher.
- I would add that consistency is the most important factor. Once your body has experienced a consistent routine for several weeks, it will crave the workout.
4. Your studio schedule has a lot of Tower and SpringTone® classes. Can you share with us why those classes are popular?
The star of the Pilates equipment is the springs. Our equipment is uniquely distinguished from regular gym equipment by the use of our heavy metal springs. Working with these devices teaches your body about two way resistance and accomplishes more training in less time than traditional equipment.
Once you feel the springs, you never forget it.
5. What is SpringTone®? How does it fit into the Classical Pilates work?
SpringTone® (find classes or training here) was my solution to the boot camp mentality of group class exercisers today. We found that using the classical syllabus and digging into the past to resurrect some of the archival Pilates work allowed us to repackage the Pilates group class experience.
In a day and age when studios are looking for the next best thing, Pilates is often overlooked. Yet, all the tools are there. We simply re-arranged them.
The SpringTone® class is a unique way to expose people to another side of Pilates in a safe, group environment. You don’t need a Reformer to experience real Pilates.
Watch this video to get a feel of a SpringTone® class.
6. What inspired you to create SpringTone®?
I would add that my experience taking various group classes in other disciplines influenced me to take another look at our existing Pilates curriculum and pull out a formula that would show off Pilates in the best possible way.
7. How can studio owners benefit from adding SpringTone® to their schedule?
- It’s simple.
- SpringTone® delivers a class that excites students about Pilates and builds a brand new client base.
- It also offers studio owners the opportunity to explore their own Pilates training on a deeper level.
- Rather than adding new training and new classes, simply adding a new type of Pilates class may be all you need to reignite your business.
- Finally, our community of like-minded SpringTone® trainers is a tremendous support system.
8. We all know Joe’s famous quote Above all, learn to breathe correctly.
If you were to give your version of the quote what would it be?
I would never presume to adjust any of Joe’s brilliant statements – the quote is perfect as is.
However, I can always add my own.
No matter what you do, Pilates is the perfect fitness foundation for living a fantastic and healthy life.