5 Reasons....

…that musicians should do pilates! I have had the pleasure of working with a few musicians, both professional and amateur. I connect deeply with musicians having been both a musician and a performer myself, and it is fun to see how something like pilates can help strengthen their performance.

  1. Pilates creates balance. Musicians tend to be even more one-sided strength-wise then the general population. Often they are holding their instrument at an odd angle, and although their technique while playing can be correct, holding their head or their arms in a particular position can take a toll when it is held for hours at a time. Pilates helps them to strengthen, stretch and balance out both sides of their bodies so that they don’t create imbalances that can hurt them later on.

  2. Pilates posture! Sometimes after practicing or performing for hours at a time, posture can become sloppy. Musicians tend to become completely engrossed in the music, and if they lack that mind/body connection, their posture can suffer. This can affect their breathing if they are slumping, which leads me to the next point…..

  3. Breath control! A big emphasis in pilates is the breathing- When I teach I like to hear the inhales and the exhales of my clients- that way I know that they are connecting their breath and their movement. Breath control in music is extremely important, particularly if you play a wind or brass instrument, or if you are a singer.

  4. Mind/Body connection. All musicians have an inherent Mind/Body connection- they all use their bodies in some way to play their instruments. However that connection is generally related to what the arms and fingers are doing. By practicing pilates musicians learn to connect with their whole bodies- which as performers is very important. Performers on stage move with the music- and having a healthy and strong body means that even when their focus is on their technique, they are moving in a way which will not hurt them or hold them back.

  5. Stress relief and human connection. This may seem like an odd one- but often professional musicians are alone for hours at a time, usually practicing or creating, or getting to their gigs. Its nice for them to have a break and get out of their heads for a moment, and exercising either with a private teacher or in a group can create a camaraderie that is healthy in more ways then just a strong body.

Men and Pilates

There has been a long standing idea that Pilates is for women- part of that is because when Joseph Pilates moved to New York the people most attracted to the exercise were ballet dancers, and through them the system spread, changed, and eventually became known as a graceful art.  However, this is a system that was invented by, taught by, and originally, lived by, a man- and not just any man! Joseph Pilates was a cigar smoking, bare chested in the snow, still very muscular well into his seventies kind of man. And he meant these exercises to be corrective and challenging for all people, regardless of gender. 

Even today, people are surprised to hear that about half of my studio's private clientele are men.  Many of them came in initially because they were recommended to by their doctor or physical therapist. But they stay because they feel challenged and can both see and (more importantly if they were in pain), FEEL the changes that occur in their bodies.  Initially my male clients are surprised by the difficulty of the exercises- the stamina and strength that they need to have to perform them correctly. The fact that it is an all body exercise every time- meaning, not just abs and arms, and then legs and glutes, but a targeted and efficient full body experience. Every time. And this creates balance within the body, which allows the client to perform better in the world outside the studio- in their weight lifting, golfing, working, whatever activities they have in their lives. So whether you are a professional Football player or a weekend warrior or anything in between, I can challenge you, and Pilates can both heal and humble you. 

Just Breathe......

One of the core principles of Pilates is breath. We focus on the breath in each and every movement, using it as a tool to deepen our practice. We use what is called "lateral breathing" to deepen the connection to the abdominal muscles by breathing into the ribcage rather then the stomach. We move on the breath, making it a part of our flow. All day long I am cueing; "inhale, exhale". When I was first taught Pilates, my teacher used a "percussive breath", meaning I make a loud "Shhhhhhhh" sound when I exhale. At first it felt forced and awkward- but now I find that it focuses my mind, brings me deeper into the exercise. When the class is getting hard I often remind my clients to go back to their breath- the deep breathing regulates their heart rate, and also stops them from holding their breath- a natural human reaction when things get hard, or scary. Just when we should be breathing more deeply we start to breathe more shallowly, or even hold our breath. When we continue to breathe through the movements and not fight against them by limiting our oxygen, then we can fully experience the moment, and not just get through it. 

There is a lot of "let's just get through it" in life. Every day I hear, "If I can just get through this day, this week, this month....". There is a lot of nervous shallow breathing, a lot of frustration in our day to day- dealing with traffic, angry people, bills, emails, the news.... but then there is this hour during the day where we get to slow down, put our phones away, and connect to our breath and our bodies, and even as we get our heart rate up or heat up and sweat, the deep breathing oxygenates our blood and calms our minds, and we leave the studio calmer and happier for it. 

So just breathe..... and don't be afraid to make it loud! And when something is hurting you, whether its physical or mental don't just get through it- breathe through it. And you will be stronger for it. 

In 10 sessions you'll feel a difference......

One of the most famous of Joseph Pilates' quotes is this: "In 10 sessions you'll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you'll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you'll have a whole new body". Many pilates studios use this quote and for obvious reasons- if you're promised a whole new body in 30 sessions, why not? It sounds amazing. Sign me up! But here's the catch- while it IS possible to have a whole new body in 30 sessions, that entirely depends on your level of commitment, both financially and mentally. People coming to pilates once or twice a week are probably not going to have a whole new body in 30 sessions. When people were coming to see Joseph Pilates they weren't coming in once a week- they were coming in 3 to 4 times a week. And they were studying with the master who demanded their focus and their strict adherence to his ideals. There were no group classes, no variations on the original exercises- there was only him, and he also expected that they would continue their practice at home, on their own time. 

I have never used this quote myself because I have felt that it creates unrealistic expectations for most people- yet that being said just yesterday I had a private client tell me (completely unsolicited) that in 20 sessions she could see the difference. And so could I! Her transformation has been wonderful, and she is in her late 50's- so it can be done at any time in life. However her commitment level is just as wonderful- She has been coming 3 times a week, and working with me and two of my other teachers privately. During her sessions her focus is absolute. She listens to what we are asking of her, and even when she feels that she's not quite getting it she'll stay with the exercise. Another one of my private clients whose transformation has been just as wonderful also worked with me 3 times a week privately until we determined that he understood the exercises well enough to transition to groups twice a week, and he continues to see me privately once a week. Just yesterday we were working on a new exercise that was challenging for him- and when we finished he said "I'll get it next time!". And I love that attitude- he doesn't get discouraged, and he is committed to improving his practice. And he has reaped the benefits- when he first came to me he had recently been hospitalized for back pain, and although he wasn't overweight by any means in the time that he's been at the studio he's lost 15 pounds and looks amazing- but best of all, no back pain. He had worried that he would be saddled with this pain forever- and he was skeptical about pilates when he first came to me. But he stuck with it, and in 30 sessions he truly had a whole new body.

So I do believe in Joseph Pilates quote, because I have seen it manifested. And yet, we are all individuals with different bodies, different needs, different schedules, and different financial means. Not all of us need a new body, and not all of us have the same standards for what a "whole new body" should be. Is it a pain-free body? Is it a body with a 6 pack? Is it a body that is more flexible, with a calmer mind? Because some of these things can absolutely be achieved in 30 sessions whether they are done once a week or 4 times a week- but some of them may require more time, energy and commitment, both inside the studio and out. 

The beautiful thing is that no matter how you use pilates- whether as your sole exercise method, or as an adjunct to your other activities- you will see, feel and experience the difference, whether you come to group classes once a week, or take privates 3 times a week. Because pilates doesn't stay in the studio- you take it with you when you leave, in your posture, in your breathing, in your awareness of your body.  My point is, don't get hung up on the whole new body in 30 sessions. If that's what you desire and what you need and you have the means to achieve it, then by all means- go for it!  But what I have found in my studio is that no matter how often you do pilates, as long as you do it regularly, you will see the benefits- from your very first session to your umpteenth group class.  





Why Pilates?

To quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."

I have been a practitioner of the Pilates method for over 20 years now. I never would have imagined walking into that first Pilates class in Venice Beach, CA that this exercise would accompany me through a successful career as a musician, the birth of my two children, the death of my beloved father, my divorce, and ultimately, that it would become my renewal, and my job. What has kept me coming back for so many years is the astonishing depth of the Pilates method. Typically you learn the basic exercises and feel like you now know the method- but its not until years down the road, of practicing and perfecting the exercises over and over that you realize how detailed, how wonderfully transforming in both body and soul Pilates can be. 

As a teacher I learn from my clients every day- and I continue to be impressed by the way that Pilates can work for so many populations- for the elderly, for the athletic, for the injured, for the ultra flexible and the completely non-flexible alike. You lay down on the reformer, Joseph Pilates' wonderful invention consisting of ropes and springs and pulleys, and your body is completely supported and safe. From that base you can begin to explore movement, find your own limitations, and then begin to transform your movement and your body. Your balance, your breathing, your stamina, your control, and your fortitude all are challenged in each and every Pilates session. 

Even after 20 years of practice there is still more for me to learn. And that is what I have always loved most about Pilates- it has kept my attention year after year because not only does it feel good when I do it, not only am I proud when I master a new movement, not only does it allow me to push beyond my limitations in a safe way, it requires attention to detail, it requires concentration, and it requires commitment. And even after 20 years there is more to learn, movements that I can improve upon. How many exercise systems can you truly say that about? 

So, these are just a few of the ways that I love Pilates- and I would love to share that love with you!