Bring Your Brain to the Game

Bring Your Brain To The Game

Why Take Pilates
If you’re like many busy people, maybe a few times a week you grab a few weights, throw on some headphones, trudge over to the treadmill and train your brain to ignore the pain. But what if you could actually bring your brain to the exercise game, engage those neurons, and make a host of healthy connections working both the mind and body.

That’s where the Pilates method comes in.

Invented by Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer who uniquely recognized that modern society was in poor health, suffering with bad posture and inefficient breathing. Joseph, who had asthma himself, devised a series of exercises and training techniques and engineered all the equipment, specifications, and tuning required to teach his methods properly.

Originally called Contrology, Pilates relates to the use of the mind to control muscles, focusing attention on core abdominal muscles that help keep the body balanced and providing support for the spine. The exercises teach awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine, strengthening the torso and abdominal muscles. The regimen builds flexibility, strength and stamina.

“A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.” 

                                                                                                – Joseph Pilates 

Sandi Vilacoba, Senior Instructor and Owner of the Pilates Project, is trained in Joseph’s classical method, and shares her insights about making the mind/ body connection.

Why is it important to make a mind/body connection in Pilates (or in any exercise)?

Exercise has become a chore for many people. If you go to the gym, you see people watching tv, reading books and doing things to distract themselves to make the time go faster. In a true Pilates workout your mind works as hard as your body and you have to bring your brain to the game.

If you are aligned properly and put your brain to the muscles and how they are moving, the exercises are more intense and efficient. You can actually get more done in less time. Your chance for injury is less. I think this goes for any exercise — alignment and mind/ body connection are super important.

What are a few tricks to make the mind/body connection while working out?

No matter what kind of workout you are doing — whether it’s Pilates, running, or weight training — give yourself a theme or a goal for your workout to keep your brain engaged.

Maybe one day you focus on pulling in your abdominals and lengthening your spine on every exercise; maybe another day you work on breathing or focusing on stamina, working a little longer or doing a couple extra reps; or you could try adding resistance, focusing on working as many muscles as you can at once or on precision.

Pilates is for everyone. Even the most athletic person may be drawn to the work it takes to slow down and think about how you’re moving and using your body. It’s for people who crave the brain, body connection.

After only a few classes, Pilates will become that voice inside your head while you drive, sit, or walk down the street, reminding you to pull in those abdominals, roll your shoulders back, and lengthen your body. People will take notice. And your brain and body will thank you for it.

Interested in seeing what Pilates can do for you and your brain? Contact us at Pilates Project to schedule your first class.

Apprentice Spotlight: Alissa

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Alissa Gary on the High Chair

Q. Why Pilates?                                                                                                                           A. Well, I discovered Pilates 4-years ago while going to school in North Carolina. With just a few classes a week, I noticed my core getting stronger and huge increase in my flexibility. I was hooked! Pilates is a sensible workout and that is the main reason why I love to teach it.

Q. Where can we find you when you are not in the studio?                                                           A. I enjoy spending my free time with my niece and nephew. With them being the ages of only 18 months and 4 months, watching them grow is such a privilege. I don’t want to miss a thing!

Q. Favorite Pilates Exercise and Why?                                                                                            A. So hard to decide! If I had to choose one, it would be Spine Stretch Forward. I love the feeling of getting that extra inch of space in my spine. It can be done on different apparatus which helps to feel the effect of the movement in a different way.

Q. Least favorite exercise and why?                                                                                                 A. My least favorite would probably be Horseback. Whether doing it on the reformer or the ladder barrel, it is a difficult exercise to grasp. However, I do love a challenge. Even though it is my least favorite, that doesn’t mean I won’t work to perfect it!

Q.Describe your teaching style in 3 words or less.                                                                          A. Classical. Attentive. Energetic.

Q. A fun or silly fact you want us to know about you.                                                                  A. I still have and sleep with “my blanky” every night. Ive had it since I was born, so its torn up but I love it. Silly I know!

Q. What do you like the most about apprenticing at The Pilates Project?                                A.I love how much I have learned from doing my training here. Being able to observe and take classes from such well-informed instructors assures me that I am in the right place for sure!

Alissa is available to teach Apprentice Sessions at The Pilates Project. Visit: here to sign up for a session.

Apprentice Spotlight: Maureen


Meet Maureen, one of our amazing new apprentices!

Q: What made you decide to start practicing Pilates?
A: I’m a runner and was doing pretty much exclusively that up until a few years ago.  My sister got me a few Pilates sessions for Christmas one year and I was hooked!  I feel taller and stronger after each session and the concentration required to engage all the right muscles really forces me to take my mind off everything else for 50 minutes.  Body and mind refreshed all at once – score!

Q: Where can we find you when you’re not in the studio?
A: This sounds so boring but you’ll probably find me at work or relaxing at home with my dog, Cooper. My day job as a behavior analyst working in the autism field keeps me pretty busy!  I also teach a course at Hunter College.

Q: What’s your favorite Pilates exercise?
A: Mermaid.  It looks simple but it’s challenging and feels so good when you get it right.

Q: Least favorite?
A: Mountain climber.  I never liked the non-Pilates version and this is harder!

Q: Describe your teaching style in 3 words –
A: Work-in-progress🙂 If that doesn’t count then: Structured – Individualized – Relaxed.

Q: Tell us something silly about yourself –
A: I can pinch with my toes! You develop weird methods of defense when your brother is 10 years older and significantly larger.

Q: What do you love the most about apprenticing at The Pilates Project?
A: I can shop while i’m on the reformer!  But seriously, it’s the people! They are the best part

Click here to register for Maureen’s open level Mat class Saturdays at 9am! To book a private apprentice session with Maureen contact




The Dad Bod: 5 Reasons Why Dad Needs Pilates Too


Pilates isn’t just for women. In fact, it was created by a man, intended for men to do. So whether he’s rocking the Dad Bod or not, here’s 5 reasons why he needs Pilates too.

  1. He Plays Golf. No caddie? No problem. You might think golf is easy but did you know that 60% of beginner golfers get injured on the green and nearly half of pro golfers retire due to golf related injuries? There’s a reason why Tiger Woods took up Pilates. Pilates will help to train both his target and non-target sides to up his game. Benefits include increased flexibility, decreased muscle tightness, longer muscles, stronger abs, and injury prevention.
  2. He’s Sits All Day. The train, the ferry, the car, the bus, the office… seeing a pattern here? Too much sitting can actually make you sick. Studies have shown that sedentary behavior can lead to increased risk of disease. It slows your metabolism, compresses the spinal column, and stiffens muscles. Pilates can help to reverse the effects of all that sitting around.
  3. He’s Had It With The Weights. One weight lifting injury after another? Maybe it’s time to switch it up. Don’t ditch the weights completely but try balancing it out with a few Pilates sessions per week. Usually the more muscle – the less flexibility. Combining weight training with Pilates will increase flexibility and mobility so that his injuries become few and far between.
  4. His new nickname is “The Sloucher”.  All that time at the computer taking a toll on his back? Poor posture is the cause of lots of nasty stuff, like chronic back and neck pain. Pilates can help to decompress the spinal column by strengthen and lengthening muscles and properly aligning the spine. He’ll be back to his original height in no time.
  5. He’s Craving the Fountain of Youth. Ok so maybe there’s no fountain, but Pilates might be the closest thing to it. It will keep his mind sharp and his body strong. As Joseph Pilates said, “If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”

Could the Dad in your life use some Pilates classes? The Pilates Project is offering 3 Private Sessions for $135 to all dads this Fathers Day.  Check it out here.

The First Time: 7 things to Expect on Your First Pilates Session


There’s always a first time for everything. If this is your first Pilates experience, we thought we’d let you know what to expect.

  1. Expect to start from the beginning. Walking into a Pilates studio can be overwhelming. All of the apparatus… the springs… the things! Have no fear, you will learn very quickly that Pilates is a sequential workout. You will learn to move through the exercises in a slow and safe manner. You will learn how to use each piece of equipment at your own pace. So, before you start to panic at the thought of getting tangled in your leg springs – take a deep breath and rest assured that you will be more than fine.
  2. Expect your instructor to ask questions. Pilates is a workout fit for everyone. There is no “gymtimidation” here. You may have started your practice to gain strong abs, rehabilitate an injury, to stay healthy during your pregnancy, to stay young over 70, or to gain more overall balance and flexibility. Whatever the reason, your instructor is going to want to know! The more they know, the more you benefit.
  3. Expect to find your abdominals. You might think you have no ab muscles but think again! In your first session, you will be introduced to your abs and learn how can engage them to create length in your spine.
  4. Expect to move. No time to get bored here. You will move around to different apparatus throughout your session. Enjoy the movement experience and don’t worry about mastering anything on your first session. The Pilates method is a learning process!
  5. Expect to feel a little weird. Remember this is brand new. You might be moving parts of your body in a way you’ve never moved them before. Don’t fret – by your second session, you will already be familiar with some of the exercises.
  6. Expect NOT to hear blaring music. In fact, expect not to hear music at all. Pilates is based on 5 principles: concentration, control centering, precision, flow, breathing. No need to add the waltz or a four-on-the-floor rhythm to that. You can however, expect to hear your instructors calming and structured count to help you flow through the exercises.
  7. Expect to learn to love these Pilates catch phrases. Scoop your abs in and up! Lift your powerhouse! Hug the midline! Lift your tuna cans! 

For more info on Pilates catchphrases check out our blog post Pilates Catchphrases Defined. Have a happy first Pilates session! 

Pilates or Pila-tease? 5 Easy Ways to Know to Whether or Not Your Pilates Class is Authentic.

not pilates (small)-2“Suped-up”, “infused” or Pilates “inspired” workouts… we’ve heard it all. Can these workouts work? Sure. Will you sweat? Sure. Will you lost weight? Gain muscle? Become more flexible? Have fun? Maybe. But are you doing Pilates? Maybe not. Pilates is an amazing workout known for creating long, lean muscles, strong abs, alleviating back pain, improving posture and changing your body for the better. But just because your class is called Pilates doesn’t mean it actually is. In fact, since the term “Pilates” was ruled generic and unrestricted after a failed trademark lawsuit in the year 2000, anyone (trained or untrained) can offer you a Pilates class. So, if you find yourself asking these 5 questions, you are probably not doing Pilates:

  1. Why can’t I feel my abs working? Centering is one of the 6 principles of Pilates. In Pilates everything is initiated from a stable, centered place. This kind of movement takes total body control & awareness. If your workout seems erratic and lacks that ab connection, you are not doing Pilates.
  2. Why isn’t this challenging? Any true Pilates practitioner will tell you Pilates is hard. There is a abundant amount of effort involved in keeping all of your body parts working efficiently to create the very specific movements.  If you are not being fed details to continuously improve your Practice, you are not doing Pilates.
  3. Why isn’t my instructor instructing? There is a reason why Pilates instructors don’t do the workout along with you. It is their job to watch your body like a hawk and correct your workout. These minor corrections of form can greatly enhance your workout. If you are not your instructors focal point, you are not doing Pilates.
  4. Is this supposed to hurt this much? Pilates is not meant to fatigue muscles. This is a case where quality beats quantity. Joseph Pilates intended his students to function throughout the rest of the day after a workout. If you find yourself exhausted, sore, or in pain after a workout instead of invigorated and ready to tackle the day, you are not doing Pilates.
  5. Where is the flow? Pilates is deliberate, smooth and graceful. There are no sudden stops, frantic movements, or unnatural transitions. You don’t just jump for the sake of jumping or kick your leg for the sake of burning the extra calorie. Everything in Pilates has its purpose and its space within the sequence. If your workout does not have a fluidity of motion, you are not doing Pilates.

5 Helpful Tips To Finding The Perfect Pilates Teacher Training Program


Choosing a Pilates training program isn’t an easy task. You really have to be your own investigator before jumping in head first. It’s a big commitment, mentally, physically and financially. Once you’re ready to leap – here are 5 helpful tips in choosing the program that best suits you.

  1. Find your Pilates Personality. During your Pilates practice, ask yourself – What kind of client am I?  What kind of teachers am I drawn to? Do I enjoy more focus on specific anatomy or do I want a teacher who focuses more on the bigger picture and just makes me feel good overall? Finding a teacher who inspires you is a great step to finding a program that will inspire you. We are all products of what we’ve experienced & learned.
  2. Location, Location, Location. Beginning a training program is a timely commitment so be sure to decide on a feasible location that works for you and your family. Don’t forget, you will have to put in pre-requisite class hours and possibly apprenticeship hours.
  3. Get Friendly. Once you start narrowing down programs, ask the teacher trainers if they offer free informational sessions. If they do not, ask to schedule a time to meet. Make sure you like them. Make sure you fall in love with their teaching philosophy. It seems a no brainer but do you really want to spend all that time and money on something you don’t love?
  4. To Comp or to Not? Before hopping into a program, find out if they offer a full comprehensive training. Even if you’re not sure you want to teach anything but mat classes, if you end up wanting the full training experience it’s easier to build upon what you’ve already got than to start from square one.
  5. Does it Teach You How to Teach? Ah, the question of the hour! Investigate your program and ask a lot of questions. Find out if your program of interest really teaches you how to teach. Will you learn modifications? Will you learn how to teach any client – no matter their age, shape, experience level, or athletic ability? Is the program just memorizing a sequence of exercises or will you learn the how, what, where, and WHY of each exercise?

No matter which program you choose, the most important thing is that you are passionate about Pilates. Love what you do. Become it. Let it shine. It’s the best way to inspire others around you! Happy hunting!

Questions about teacher training opportunities at The Pilates Project? Contact us today!

How to Practice Pilates Without Breaking the Bank

Piggy Bank Break

photo from date daily

How to Practice Pilates Without Breaking the Bank

We often hear that one of the reasons people stop or sometimes never even start their Pilates practice is because of financial reasons. It can seem unaffordable to some, especially if you only glance at private session rates on a studio website. Pilates has a tendency to swing to the pricier end of the fitness spectrum, but it is for good reason: becoming a classical Pilates instructor requires considerable training and preparation and in many cases the purchasing of expensive equipment. That being said it seems that everyone is doing it and there are more studios popping up than ever before. So how do you practice Pilates regularly without breaking the bank?

  1. Communication is key. Explain to your instructor exactly what you want to get out of your practice. What are your goals? And what is your budget? Your instructor will not only help you reach your physical goals but will guide you in ways to help stay within your budget as well.
  2. Go class crazy. Although we do recommend privates, it may be beneficial for you to try out some classes. Most studios offer discounted class packages which are more affordable than privates. Check out mat packages too. They are even more budget friendly! You can always flip flop between privates and classes.
  3. Work the at home workouts. Ask your studio owner or instructor if they sell any Pilates books or DVDs. Even if you can only visit the studio once a week, you can still supplement your workouts at home.
  4. It pays to purchase the package. When in doubt, always purchase the package over paying per session. Your pocket will thank you in the long run.
  5. Network. Ask your instructor about current deals (i.e. referral discounts) and check out your studio’s social media pages like Facebook and Twitter for monthly specials. Plus, it’s a fun way to get involved in your studio’s community!