Inside the Pilates Studio: Kerry DeVivo

Inside the Pilates Studio: Kerry DeVivo

Kerry DeVivo

Kerry DeVivo is one of my first Pilates teachers. In the fall of 2000, I took a Mat class at Excel Pilates (formerly Excel Movement Studios) in Washington, DC. Kerry was co-owner of the studio (along with Lesa McLaughlin) and was friendly when I would see her in the studio. We bonded immediately because of the whole Italian thing, and I have always been envious of her last name. Mine sounds too much like a verb (Andrea Maida cake, etc…), whereas DeVivo means “To life!”

After a while I started to take semi-private lessons in addition to the weekly Mat class (you can see the addiction was growing…).  Finally I got to have a private lesson with Kerry. I was nervous. I wanted to be really focused and do my best. She did not have many openings in her schedule and I managed to snag one. If I did really well, maybe I'd get another? She could tell I was pretty amped up and wisely suggested that I relax. It turned out to be quite the hour. I had no idea I locked my knees so much…

I learned many valuable lessons from Kerry. I mean besides the body of work known as the Pilates Method. Oh that.

  1. The goal as one advances in Pilates is to sustain the work of the powerhouse from the moment the class begins until the final finish 50 minutes later. It was quite the blow. Cynthia Lochard mentioned this just last week. All roads lead to Romana Kryzanowska.
  2. If you are stressed out and need to focus, do the Wall. In a few minutes you'll be calm. And taller.
  3. It's okay to need counseling after teaching your spouse. In fact it's expected.

I was thrilled to be able to catch up with Kerry this past May when she hosted me for a workshop at her studio. Our relationship has developed over the years and I am so fortunate to have her as a friend, teacher, mentor and colleague. I am positively in love with the swiftness of her replies be it via voicemail, email or text. Really, when we need something, we need it yesterday, am I right?

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Kerry DeVivo: At this point in my life, my favorite Pilates exercise is footwork on the reformer.  I lie back on the reformer, set my feet on the footbar, and as I start the first repetition I think, “YES!  I've arrived on the reformer – lucky me and I have a whole workout ahead of me”.  Part two, as a teacher, my favorite Pilates exercise is rolling like a ball on the mat.  First, this exercise is an icebreaker.  First repetition – roll back – roll up…. not quite.  It catches people's attention.  It makes them realize there's something more to this work.  Second, rolling like a ball is a building block to so many other exercises and you see aspects of many exercises in rolling like a ball.

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.

KD: Neck pull.  Well, if after 27 years I still can't do it well – then it gets the “least favorite” award.  Of course, it also means I need it!

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

KD: The severity of Pilates' brilliance of the layering and intertwining of the exercises.  It's all there, Pilates has provided it all.  And I just love how it helps us all “return to life”.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Kerry DeVivo4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?

KD: The ability to experience silence, pure silence.

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

KD: The lack of appreciation of any thing or anyone.

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

KD: Empower.

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

KD: Belly.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

KD: I would love to be a full-time philanthropist.

9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you?

KD: “Gut gemacht! (which is German for bravo), now would you like a lesson?”- as I would not want to stop learning.

10. What did you learn today?

KD: Simplicity really is best.

Kerry is the owner of Excel Pilates Annapolis. Learn more about Kerry and her Pilates POV in Peter Fiasca's recent book Voices of Classical Pilates.

Must-reading for nerds of all stripes.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Kerry DeVivo

Inside the Pilates Studio: Benjamin Degenhardt

Inside the Pilates Studio: Benjamin Degenhardt

Benjamin Degenhardt

Benjamin Degenhardt wrote a wonderful article on his love of the Pilates Mat. I found it the day after this question popped up on Facebook:

What's your favorite piece of Pilates equipment?

Dismayed by some of the responses (most notably ‘the foam roller') you can imagine my joy when I read Benjamin's article on the Mat. It was a lovely serendipitous gift from the universe.

This guy was speaking my language.

As I continued to follow Benjamin online I was reminded of all kinds of cool stuff Joe Pilates said:

“One of the wonders of the world,” Joe Pilates says in an interview from 1961, “is that people give their wonderful, complex bodies less consideration than they show their automobiles. Cars can be replaced but your body is the only one you’ll have. Yet not one person in a thousand takes the time each day to see that it is properly exercised.”

This spring I met up with Benjamin when he was teaching in California. Sans Facebook?? Turns out he is as lovely in person as he is online. A brilliant combination of Pilates Nerd, historian and entrepreneur. The clear vision of his 360° Pilates continuing education program is inspiring.

I hope you enjoy this installation of Inside the Pilates Studio. Geek on more of Benjamin's articles here. You know you want to. 🙂

“In with the air and out with the air…”

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Benjamin Degenhardt: That would be The Hundred, without a doubt. It was love at first pump, and to this day I think it's an incredibly effective exercise. If done as described in Return To Life it is one of the best full-bodied movement, power, and strength assessments, all the while being a complete warm-up that activates all of the body's systems in 30 seconds. It's everything a good exercise should be – simple, but not easy.

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.

BD: I only dislike exercises that have no purpose, and I have yet to find such an exercise in Joe Pilates' repertoire! But if you are asking for an exercise that challenges every ounce of my strength and determination, that would be the Hip Circles on the Mat.

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

BD: As someone who constantly questions and reconsiders how we teach movement and how the Pilates repertoire relates to the human body, it continues to amaze me how far Joe was indeed ahead of his time. We have such a specific, in-depth understanding of each of the body's systems today, yet we struggle to turn that knowledge into a comprehensive view on human movement. Joe's work was absolutely holistic. What turns me on creatively and mentally is to connect the dots between modern movement science and the historical work – and to see how they don't conflict with each other. And on a physical level – borrowing a quote from an original student of Joe Pilates – I love “to let my body think through the exercises”; the sensation of being (completely immersed and fiercely present in) movement.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Benjamin Degenhardt4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?

BD: To have a healthy body, a sound mind, and lots of fun! Most importantly, to have someone to share my earthly happiness with.

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

BD: To lose my determination and willingness to learn new things, and the ability to adapt to whatever will happen in my life.

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

BD: Top of mind is “zest”. It perfectly summarizes the outcome of a regular Pilates practice. Yes, you get strong and flexible and all, but it's that spring in your step, the glow on your skin, and the smile on your face that a good movement practice is all about – “spontaneous zest and pleasure”, as Joe said.

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

BD: It's not a Pilates word, but I hear it all the time – “Hundreds”. It's only one hundred!

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

BD: I feel fortunate that my first career in dance has become such a great departure point for what I do now. I honestly can't imagine doing anything else, but if I ever was to leave the world of movement altogether, I would probably want to learn how to design and make clothes!

9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you?

BD: “Komm', lass uns bewegen.” (Translation: Come, let's move!”)

10. What did you learn today?

BD: To always take any important, irreplaceable items on board with you during air travel. I just arrived in Stockholm this morning and am still waiting for my bag – which holds my entire archival Pilates collection. I hope that in the meantime they are learning a thing or two from Joe's writings at Customs.

ABOUT BENJAMIN
Benjamin DegenhardtBenjamin Degenhardt is the creator of 360° Pilates, a continuing education program designed to reconnect movement teachers of all training backgrounds with the original philosophy and guiding principles of Joe Pilates' work – with a keen eye on modern exercise science. He conducts historical research, writes articles for his website benjamindegenhardt.com, and presents workshops around the world.

 

SOME MORE BENJAMIN, PLEASE!

Inside the Pilates Studio: Amy Kellow

Inside the Pilates Studio: Amy Kellow

Amy Kellow

There are so many reasons to love Amy, it's hard to know where to begin. I met Amy in October 2011 during my first section of The Work at Vintage Pilates. Many a friendship is forged in the midst of the Mat exercises, especially as you sweat it out mentally and physically in the High Scissors and High Bicycle. There is often much gnashing of teeth while working to perfect just these 2 mat exercises. Then of course you've got all the other exercises… Oh. Shall we soothe ourselves over Shabu Shabu then? Affirmative.

Amy's passion and dedication to her Pilates education is impressive. According to Brendon Burchard, a frequent speaker on motivation, high performance and leadership, “Experts are always students first.” Score 1 for Amy.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Amy Kellow

Classical Pilates Convention UK

I plan to join Amy Kellow along with Vintage Pilates trifecta: Jay Grimes, Karen Frischmann, Sandy Shimoda and Mejo Wiggin at the Classical Pilates Conference on 27-29 September 2013.

Register online.

Stop by and say hello on Facebook.

For more information email Amy.

Conference planning is just one of the skills in Amy's wheelhouse. I don't think she sleeps.

And now I must profess my lifelong love affair with Amy's home: England. Great B. UK's-ville.

Sorry Sweden, but you never forget your first…

“This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England…”

-William Shakespeare's Richard II

I think I'll spare you the geeky Brit stories from my adolescence. Let's just say I had a mean Brummie accent, not to mention at one point I could recite the entire canon of…Monty Python.

Cheers!

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Amy Kellow: This is a really tough question. At the moment I love Pull Ups on the Wunda Chair. I choose to do this at the beginning of my workouts so I can feel the challenge of finding the right connections in the body. I love the 1 legged versions as this really helps me connect to my weaker side so if I am feeling a little off balance I will do this. I can use the exercise to connect to my body, challenge myself to deepen my work and to find my weak spots!

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.

AK: I have always found Going Up Side on the Wunda Chair so challenging. I can picture all my teachers nodding in agreement now! I remember thinking in my initial training how impossible the exercise was for me, a few months later I didn't think it so bad. But then every time I think I have the exercise cracked and I feel confident about it it rears up at me and becomes impossible again!

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

AK: I'm a thinker – I always have been. Pilates challenges me to think about the body and whether I have the ability to feel what I see and see what I hear and the strength to express this in my teaching. Pilates has always made sense to me and I hope that I can get others to feel the same.

4.What is your idea of earthly happiness?

AK: Apart from being able to travel the world and hang out with my favorite pilates people!

Earthly happiness is the comfort of home with good friends and loved ones, laughter, hugs and afternoon naps curled up on the sofa and of course a good glass of red wine.

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

AK: Not to follow your dreams and aspirations. You only have yourself to account to so take the small steps that you know you can achieve and the rest will fall into place.

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

AK: Grow – in my knowledge, in my body, in my ability to teach.

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

AK: Today it is ‘Imprinting'. I have come across so many teachers that do not understand this concept. I think it is overused but often not understood.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

AK: I'd like to run a cozy country pub.

9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you?

AK: “Good work Amy … now go do your mat!”

10. What did you learn today?

AK: To enjoy the company of the people around me, be proud of their achievements and continue to support them in any way I can.

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What are your favorite and least-favorite Pilates exercises? Leave a comment below and let us know. Thank you for reading!

 

Inside the Pilates Studio: Jennifer Kries

Inside the Pilates Studio: Jennifer Kries

Jennifer Kries. Simply the best Pilates news to hit San Diego since Junghee Won. I first encountered Jennifer via her prolific video workout library. We may be even talking VHS here, folks. Back in the day when my husband and I were egocentric 20-somethings we decided we'd give Pilates a go and promptly rented – if memory serves me – some Jennifer Kries. Thus was our first introduction to the Pilates method. We decided to dip our toes into the water with an Intermediate Mat. Quite confident of our general fitness, and with no tangible expectations we began. Jennifer was amazing. We sadly, were dusted by the Roll Up. By the Neck Pull we did not have a lot of love for Ms. Kries and her seemingly endless poise and control. And by the Teaser we had fully descended into the murky depths of hurling nasty epithets and F-bombs at the screen. We received a healthy dose of humble courtesy of the Pilates Method and the now-glistening-but-barely Madame Kries.

Now I feel like my Pilates world has come full circle. I introduced myself to Jennifer via Facebook and shared my vivid memory of her workout when I got to meet her in person at a workshop at Vintage Pilates in Los Angeles. I was immediately struck – or should I say enveloped – by her warmth and humanity. She could not have been lovelier or more gracious as I told her of our first “encounter” and why it had been so memorable for me.

Southern California, get ready to catch one of Jennifer's Workshops. They are not to be missed!

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Jennifer Kries: Not a fair question, because I really don’t have one favorite. The entire syllabus is amazing and a world of continuous challenge and discovery, but for today, I’ll say the Tower. 

I love it because it is an exercise that requires a level of true mastery and control in order to rise up gracefully and effortlessly on the shoulders, while carefully controlling the legs. It yields all of the benefits of a yoga inversion, where the internal organs get relief from the effects of gravity as well as a new influx of fresh, oxygenated blood; it provides a full body massage, and the opportunity to release and open the body in a way you that you never thought possible- an exercise that when I first performed it at Drago’s with Romana literally on top of me, sinking her knees into my hamstrings, I recall thinking to myself that this was what heaven must feel like …

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.

JK: That’s easy: Hip Circles. The exercise has always made my dancer’s hip flexors scream, and leaves me feeling quite grumpy and looking for the nearest reformer so that I can follow them up with front thigh splits to get some relief.

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

JK: Everything about it turns me on creatively, mentally and physically. I can’t separate the three, as they are all so completely interconnected and positively enhanced by the work. When I work out, because I am utterly and completely engaged and focused, in tandem with the abundant, conscious breathing, my body’s systems are refreshed and reinvigorated– I always feel new when I have finished a session.  The work itself sets off a catalytic chain of marvelous events that lead to powerful mental acuity, feelings of empowerment, inspiration and possibility on all planes of existence. It has always been this way, and I know in my heart that it always will. 

4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?

Jennifer Kries teaching on the Reformer

JK: Feeling healthy, easy and empowered in my body, calm and focused in my mind, peaceful and grateful in spirit, yet set aflame by the simplest things– a shared smile, a beautiful turn of phrase, feeling deeply connected to and understood by kindred spirits, getting lost in the transcendent flow of creating, a rose, the sky, a bird taking flight.

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

JK: Not honoring the body you were gifted with to fully embrace yourself, go beyond yourself by serving others, and make the most of this life by celebrating it and all that it is capable of–loving, giving, learning, growing …  

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

JK: Contrology. It says it all. It’s how it all began. It IS the man and the philosophy. It IS the Method: “Complete coordination of body, mind and spirit.” 

Jennifer is launching her Pilates Mentorship Program in Spring, 2013, “Teaching to Inspire.”
For more information on how to study with Jennifer, please contact Charles@jenniferkries.com
Master Trainer Fan jpeg

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

JK: Scoop. 

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike it. Used once or twice is fine. However, there are so many other words that can replace the word, and I always like to encourage the people I teach to look deeper and use their minds to produce equally effective, clear, concise, perhaps even better metaphorical language when trying to inspire the “navel-to-spine connection” and related movement in their students. The word “scoop” is like a default that is overused. 

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

JK: Oh there are a few, but today, I’ll say Astronomer. I have always been fascinated by deep space, and the idea of actually peering into it with the most refined scopes that science has produced to discover new realms, in order to really understand dark matter, black holes and life beyond what we know here on earth, pretty much thrills me.

9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you?

JK: That he wants to return to earth to teach again and show ‘em all how it’s really done, and as luck would have it, I’ve won the Pilates Lottery and I’m first in line for a lesson.

10. What did you learn today?

JK: That our new congress, the 113th now includes a record number of women- 101 in all, and perfectly timed with 2013, our New Year, heralding the true Return of the Divine Feminine on Planet Earth! Hallelujah!

Jennifer is featured in the cover story of American Fitness magazine, January 2013.

Jennifer Kries American Fitness

Read the full article “Tap into your Waking Energy.”

Inside the Pilates Studio: Fredrik Prag

Fredrik and Elisabet Prag are the owners of Pilates Scandinavia, Stockholm.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Fredrik Prag

Okay this installation of the Inside the Pilates Studio is quite exciting…By now you have grasped the great love I have for the Pilates Method and all its trappings. So let's talk about Sweden.

I love films in general but if it is foreign film, oh boy, if I can read subtitles and watch a movie I can barely contain my enthusiasm. Make it a foreign documentary and I nearly have to peel myself off the ceiling. My love affair with Sweden began in perhaps a cliché sort of way: the Steig Larrson trilogy. Movies first, and by accident really. I had no idea what the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was about, but *you guessed it* it did have subtitles. A couple hours later I staggered out of the theatre. Mind. Blown. I would go on to watch all three Swedish films so many times I was convinced I could understand the dialogue without even reading. These proved to be a gateway drug to Larrson's novels, countless cups of coffee and also the works of Henning Mankell. Mostly the Wallander series but also some one-offs, most notably The Man from Beijing and The Depths. In my mind I traveled all over southern Sweden with Kurt Wallander, Mankell's famous Everyman inspector, and ferried across to Copenhagen. Mankell wrote the first book in the Wallander series in 1991. Evidently now one can train/drive to Copenhagen since the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000. All this I learned while I contemplated purchasing a Volvo, mostly for the overseas delivery option and complimentary trip to Göteborg.

Okay, wait, where was I. Oh yes, the lovely man in the photo with the champagne, right! Sweden, Pilates and a bottle of champagne. Romana would be so happy 🙂 For the next studio party you must bring the champagne and Elisabet.

Just watch this short video. Warning: you are about to see some fantastic Pilates, Scandinavian-style. Make some coffee first.

Fredrik, Standing Arm Springs and the Guillotine

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Fredrik Prag: It varies. Right now it´s The Roll Over. It is such a great dynamic in this exercise. For me it gives power to the arms and with a stiff lower back and short hamstrings it is a release.

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.

FP: It used to be the Roll Over:-)!

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

FP: The never ending challenge and gradually changing focus from the outer challenge into a more mental challenge that stays in the body and does not go to the head. Be out of your mind and in your body:-)!

4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?

FP: Truth, Love & a good Pilates mat session!

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

FP: A bad Pilates mat session with 2 words “loose glutes” and “neutral spine.”

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

FP: Squeeze your butt!

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

FP: Neutral Spine (makes me sick)

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

FP: I have had plenty in the past, I’m ok now!

9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you?

FP: Do Mat!! Do Reformer!!

10. What did you learn today?

FP: Be easy!