Pilates on Fifth & Ultimate Pilates

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On January 7th we attended the opening bell ceremony at the NASDAQ with the co-founders of our fabulous MINDBODY studio software, Rick Stollmeyer and Bob Murphy! It was NASDAQs FitWeek, the annual event celebrating healthy living and active lifestyles. Many other business owners from the fitness and wellness community were there. It was a TREMENDOUS experience.

Stollmeyer and his original co-founder started MINDBODY in their GARAGE in 2000 because he admired what wellness professionals do. They went public about a year ago and raised $100 million in their initial IPO.


We, Pilates on Fifth, were one of their first clients in 2002. In fact, we may have been one of their first Pilates studio clients as their initial software catered more to group class-oriented studios (yoga, spinning, etc). We needed a software to accommodate private/duet/trio scheduling as well.  They were so incredibly helpful in creating a system that fit our scheduling.  Before MINDBODY, we had been using "class cards" (literally cards...an old system lots of dance studios used) to keep track of client sessions. We had looked into having software designed ourselves, and fortunately MINDBODY came along!


Long story short, MINDBODY invited some of its dedicated clients to be part of the opening bell ceremony. We are truly humbled and honored to have been asked to participate. MINDBODY is a great company founded by people who care. The company was recently voted #10 in best tech companies to work for in 2015 by Mashable. What an accomplishment!


Enjoy the pictures!

Monday, January 11th 2016

"The Secret in the Eyes" What you need to know about the Pelvo-Ocular

Did you know horses wear blinders to keep them focused on their paths and prevent them from veering off to follow whatever catches their eyes?
While humans naturally possess greater concentration than horses , the visual sensory input (where our eyes are focused) involuntarily affects our head placement.  Likewise, the placement of our heads affects our pelvic placement, lower back alignment and overall posture.  Observe people casually moving through life:  those whose necks stick out (forward head posture) tend to pitch forward at the hips.
This is called the pelvo-ocular reflex: “the neuromotor response of the pelvic girdle and lower extremity, which serves to orient the body region in response to head position and anticipatory visual cues,” as defined by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. If your head is placed too far front (think of your chin jutting forward), your pelvis will tilt anteriorly to balance your center of gravity. This leads to lumbar extension and potential lower back pain.
Pilates helps bring awareness to head placement, neck tension, and spinal movements. Your eyes are important, too. Many Pilates students tend to look down in concentration, leading to an unintentional drop in the chin and slouch through the shoulders. Besides shifting the posture of the upper body, this downward focus changes the orientation of the pelvis. Pilates students also frequently look sideways to the mirror to check their position – but this rotation for a quick peek can change the benefits of the Pilates exercise.
Three Tips for Keeping Your Pelvo-Ocular Reflex In Check:
1.      Trust your instructor to be your eyes. Pilates on Fifth Instructors are highly trained to watch your exercises with a focus on detail. Especially in private Pilates sessions, let them observe your posture rather than shifting out of position to check the mirror.
2.      For Pilates exercises in the plank position, be aware that your neck remains lengthened from the spine rather than dropping the head with gravity.
3.      Be cautious of jutting your chin forward in standing Pilates exercises to avoid arching the lower back. This awareness of the relationship between your head and your pelvis while practicing Pilates is one of the many ways to improve your posture and lower back pain.
For example, in supine exercises, don't look up and lift your chin too high, bringing the cervical spine into extension.
Supine Proper
Supine Improper
In prone exercises, don't further extend the cervical spine to increase range of motion... your neck and lower back will thank you in the long run.
Prone Proper
Prone Improper
As mentioned above, in the plank position, keep your neck lengthened from the spine rather than dropping the head with gravity.
Plank Proper
Plank Improper
Our two cents worth!
As we did our own research for this blog and our team did as well, we were marveling at the fact that every article we found spoke solely about the HEAD placement as opposed to the eyes, yet it's called the "pelvo-ocular reflex"..... We not-so-humbly think that the better name might be the "pelvo-cervical reflex", as that speaks to what is really going on, which is if your cervical spine moves into extension, then your pelvis will tip anteriorly. For some, that might happen with the eyes lifting, and others with the eyes dropping. Regardless, if you keep your eyes level and don't stick your neck out (literally, not figuratively), the result will be both better posture and better placement for your pelvis in all of your activities.


Monday, January 4th 2016

Revitalize, Restore and Rebalance with the Foam Roller

Getting the most out of your Foam Roller
The foam roller has many merits.  It can target your core swiftly, intensify some exercises while making others more accessible and, of course, help you roll out those stubbornly tight muscles. We've noticed, however, that most people, when exercising, tend to utilize the foam roller in just one of these roles.
As a result, we wanted to create a Pilates-based workout that combines all the merits of this wonderful piece of equipment. With the foam roller, exercising and stretching can be intermixed for optimum efficiency.
With Revitalize, Restore and Rebalance, we've placed the myofascial release and the stretching within the workout: after we work a group of muscles, we release them, methodically going through the major muscle groups of the body. The goal when we created the workout was to feel revitalized, restored, and rebalanced at the end.... we certainly did and we hope you do too!
Monday, November 30th 2015

10 Minutes Pilates Workout You Can Do Everyday

By: Mary Sauer
In the health and fitness world, there are varying opinions about whether it is appropriate to work out everyday. Research is clear—it is crucial we give our muscles a break for healing when they become fatigued. However, Pilates is a bit different than most workouts. A well-rounded Pilates workout will be full of variety, shifting the focus between different muscle groups.
Because of this, not only is it completely safe to practice Pilates everday, but the creator of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, insisted that 10 minutes of this core-strengthening exercise daily is imperative to an excellent practice. Implementing a daily Pilates routine requires a commitment to diversifying your workouts, so be sure to include multiple muscle groups to create a balanced, daily workout.

Via Modernize

30 Seconds: Pilates Curl
Position yourself face-up on your Pilates mat with your knees bent. As you exhale, pull your shoulders off the mat and your chin towards your chest. On your inhale, slowly lower back to your starting position.
60 Seconds: Pilates Hundreds
Begin positioned face-up on your Pilates mat with your knees bent. Straighten your legs and raise them towards your chest until you have created a 45 degree angle. Raise your shoulders off the ground, just as your did in the Pilates Curl. Straighten your arms on either side of your egs and face your palms towards the floor. Pump your arms up and down. Meanwhile, exhale every five counts and inhale every five counts.
Begin by positioning yourself on all fours, with your elbows on the ground and your knees beneath your hips. Beginning on either side, extend a leg straight back and the lift toward the ceiling without arching your back. Lower your leg and repeat for 30 seconds before switching to the opposite leg.
60 Seconds: Back Bows
Begin by positioning yourself facedown on your mat and extend your arms straight above your head. As you inhale, focus contracting the muscles in your core and legs. As you exhale, very slowly raise your chest, arms, and legs off the ground. Slowly return to a starting position as you inhale.
Via Modernize
60 Seconds: Plank to Push-up
Begin by standing. Slowly lower yourself into a plank position. Next, lower towards the ground as in a push-up, keeping your palms near your chest and your elbows pulled in towards your body. Straighten your arms, pushing yourself back into the plank position.
30 Seconds: Rolling Like a Ball
Begin by sitting on your mat. Slowly draw your knees towards your chest and wrap your arms around your knees, hugging them close to your body. As you inhale, rock back onto your tailbone and then even further until your back touches the floor. As you exhale, use the momentum of your roll and contracted core muscles to roll back into a seated position. Repeated twice, this workout targets muscle groups in your legs, core, arms, and chest in just 10 minutes each day. Since this workout uses body weight alone, the team at Modernize believes it is the perfect workout to complete in the comfort of your sunroom or in-home workout room.
Our Two Cents Worth
Below are some links to a few of our workouts that last 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!
Post Workout Stretch Sequence



Tuesday, October 6th 2015

Golden Pilates

Golden Pilates

Keeping New Yorkers in their golden years balanced, strong and flexible!

Did you know that Joseph Pilates practiced his method well into his eighties?

Well he did!  Pilates exercises are beneficial for people of all ages, but they have particular benefits for older adults. Because Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility and balance, individuals in their “golden years” will find many ways to benefit.



             Half Swan for Better Posture                                                       Stability Ball Work for a Strong Core


So join in the fun!  Ellen Fluhr, former Broadway dancer, Pilates instructor and now a dynamic senior herself, created “Golden Pilates,” a 55 minute Pilates class designed to help her peers continue to move through life with grace and agility.  Special attention is given to proper biomechanics and placement to help target the common causes of chronic low back pain and neck and joint stiffness. Balance, flexibility and stamina, with and without props, are also addressed in class.



            Pilates exercises for Stronger Abs                                                 Side Leg Lift Series for Better Balance


Ellen provides modifications for all exercises, thus allowing them to be customized to match your health needs, age, and personal goals.  The mat exercises, which are performed either lying down or sitting, can be done safely without any concern for falling.  Exercises on the ball help develop core strength and balance safely and effectively.



            Shoulder Bridge for a Stronger Core

Finally, Ellen insures the Pilates exercises she chooses are functional for you, in other words, the exercise relate to the activities that you routinely practice outside the studio. She supports your training with careful instruction and corrections. She’s been a “saving grace,” says a student recovering from an injury. “She’s fabulous!” says another -- and people keep coming back for more!

Balance Work with the Small Ball

Thursday, September 24th 2015

Yamuna Body Rolling at Pilates on Fifth!

Yamuna Body Rolling at Pilates on Fifth! – an energizing and relaxing workout that focuses on
·       creating optimal space in the body
·       increasing the range of motion around joints
·       stimulating bone
·       re-aligning body structure to optimize functionality
Using specially designed Yamuna balls of various sizes and textures, the systematic routines elongate and tone muscles, free up musculoskeletal tension and discomfort, increase blood flow and lung capacity, and promote healing from everyday wear and tear. Using specific balls for specific routines makes it possible to work muscles in detail from origin to insertion. The result is a self-massage that uses your own body weight and the traction from the balls to release tight areas and increase your 360 degree body awareness.
The work in Pilates privates or Pilates classes can easily be integrated into any other activity that you do. You’ll see how your overall performance will improve! If you have old or new injuries to nurture, Yamuna Body Rolling at Pilates on Fifth will offer you resources to support recovery. 
Yamuna Body Rolling class or workout will be a great complement to your Pilates privates or group Pilates classes at Pilates on Fifth. Your focus will be on your breath as you use your weight on the balls to stimulate bone and release muscle. You’ll experience a strength and openness in your body that you’ll be able to transfer to your Pilates practice.  Try a Yamuna Body Rolling class before one of the other classes at Pilates on Fifth—or try it afterwards. Whatever you choose, you’ll feel the qualitative improvement to your training practice.
A real plus of the Yamuna work is that you can do it anytime, anywhere. Throw a black or pearl ball into your bag and do some refreshing rolling at your desk, on the plane, during a break, in a chair, on the floor and in your bed too!
Enjoy the pictures below!
Yamuna balls of various sizes.
Lifting and releasing the chest for better posture, while bringing air 360 into the ribcage to increase lung capacity.
Deep shoulder stretch/opener to alleviate rounded shoulders from sitting at a computer, poor postural habits and stress.
Hamstring release right at the origin.
Release for the sacro-iliac joint to alleviate discomfort from sitting or standing too long.
IT Band Release -- great for runners, cyclists or any weekend warrior.
Thursday, September 17th 2015

Classical vs Contemporary Pilates

Who knew Pilates could be so polarizing to some to have two factions “Classical Pilates” and “Contemporary Pilates”?!  To be clear, we find merits to both approaches, BUT have chosen the contemporary approach for our studio.

In short, “classical Pilates” adheres to the repertoire as Joseph Pilates originally designed it: only the exercises he developed (without any modification) and in exactly the same order every time.

“Contemporary Pilates” incorporates modern knowledge of the body and biomechanics into the Pilates repertoire. Thus, the original Pilates exercises still exist, but new exercises as well as modifications to original Pilates exercises have been added to make the system safer or more functional for a client.

If you would like to read more, please choose from one of the below listed sites.



Classical or Contemporary Pilates?

To help our clients, we believe in teaching each client of ours the Pilates exercises right for them, not teaching the same set of Pilates exercises to every client, regardless of age, background and fitness level. We prefer to look at the needs of the client and choose exercises from the wonderful Pilates repertoire that fit the client in an order right for them, rather than asking the client to fit into Pilates exercises in a certain sequence.

Joseph Pilates passed away in 1967, thus his classical Pilates work stopped evolving upon his death. We can’t help but think that had he lived to experience the modern research in biomechanics and physical therapy produced since then, Mr. Pilates may have modified his own system to incorporate the new discoveries… his own “contemporary Pilates”.  But we’ll never know, so sadly, the factions may always be present!

Wednesday, August 12th 2015


We have been thinking for a while about writing a blog about how sitting most of the day is, well, EVIL!  Since the majority of people do sit most of the day, we're sure you can identify with the "desk posture" to which we are referring: rounded shoulders, tight lower back, shortened hamstrings...and these are just the physical effects!  Sitting can also leave you feeling sluggish and tired, making the thought of going to the gym far less appealing. 
To substantiate our opinions, we went online to find articles by experts about the perils of sitting. Our thought was that we would find some articles that spoke about the PSOAS, the large,deep muscle that flexes the hip, and how a shortened psoas due to long bouts of sitting wreaks havoc on your lower back and posture…..

Instead, we found a slew of very DIRE articles about the long term implications of sitting -- articles far too grim for us to include here!  Surprisingly, the articles spoke mainly about the PHYSIOLOGICAL ramifications of prolonged sitting as opposed to the BIOMECHANICAL repercussions.

Soooooooooooo, we decided just to speak to our experience!  

For those of you who may not know, we did not become professional dancers until AFTER working in multinational corporations in Tokyo for four years. In other words, we sat at desks all day long for four years!  And we each threw ourselves into work, so stayed at the office long hours....so we stayed sitting for long hours!  When we finally decided to get back to dancing we were 27….which is OLD in the dancing world!  The first thing we noticed about our posture (once we realized vast improvement was necessary) was that we walked and stood in a constant, albeit slight, hinge forward from the hips.  Of course, at the time, we weren’t familiar with the term “anterior tilt”, so we called it “duck butt."  We thought our butts stuck out and looked like little ducks.  But actually, we were walking around in permanent hip flexion all the time!  

When your hips are in a constant state of hip flexion -- even to a small degree -- the muscles around your hip joints get tight in the wrong places, loose in the wrong places, and ultimately unbalanced. This, of course, throws off your balance as well! We know this firsthand!  After our FOUR YEARS of desk work in Japan, we came back to graduate school at Columbia University in NYC, we started taking dance classes again, quickly realizing that we were ENTIRELY “out of whack”.  It felt like aliens had invaded our bodies….  we couldn’t jump well, couldn’t balance well, and most definitely could not turn well!  At the time, we only attributed the decline to “not dancing”.

Now flash forward 19 years!  We know MUCH more about the human body now, as we have owned and operated our studio for 15 years, and have had the benefit of seeing many different bodies throughout the years.  Combine that with the inherent knowledge of the how our bodies FELT differently when approaching exercise after sitting all day vis a vis after walking, dancing, and, well, NOT sitting, and you have two people who TRULY understand the repercussions of sitting all day!

So here are our findings:

Sitting, because it keeps you in a constant state of hip flexion, not only shortens, but also WEAKENS the hip flexors. Short muscles are not necessarily strong muscles!
Sitting keeps the glutes in an elongated, passive position... they are certainly NOT being strengthened!
Sitting on a ball or "sitting up straight" is certainly better for your spine, than sitting slouched in a chair, but the hip joint will still be flexed.
When your hip joint becomes accustomed to constant hip flexion, finding neutral hip placement is challenging!  Slight flexion feels like "neutral," so then you walk, stand, etc, in slight hip flexion.
When you're in constant hip flexion -- even if your spine is technically neutral -- the psoas is still shortened and is pulling on the lumbar vertebrae.  This causes back pain.
But how do you know if your hip flexors are short, or weak, or both?
There are a couple of tests that you can do.
1)  The Thomas Test  --- for tightness
We HIGHLY recommend that you visit the link for a full description of the test, but in a VERY small nutshell, in the position above, if your thigh does not touch the table, your hip flexors are tight.  If the knee is also bent 70 degrees or less, your rectus femoris is also tight, and if your leg abducts during the test, your IT band is tight.
2)  Psoas Strength Test
The video on this site explains both the Thomas test (above) and this strengthening test extremely well, but essentially, you sit right on your sit bones with your pelvis and spine neutral, hands behind the head.  Then, lift one leg off the ground without changing spinal shape or rotating the pelvis to complete the movement.  Because the psoas is the only hip flexor that acts on the hip past 90 degrees of hip flexion, if it is weak, you either will not be able to lift your leg, OR you will compensate in some way (by tilting or rotating the pelvis).
So what exercises can you do?
Actually, and very simply, you can use these tests to both strengthen and stretch your psoas.
We recommend you do the strength test first.
Paying careful attention to the position of your pelvis and spine (they should be neutral), lift one knee up, using your hand(s) if necessary, as high as you can without disrupting alignment.  Then, release your hands and lower the leg as slowly as possible.
Alternatively, you can do the same test with your arms down by your side, using them as support as you lift each leg.
Then, the Thomas test can turn into your stretch!  Just make sure that the pelvis stays neutral and the lower back does not arch!
One more exercise we'd like to add here is a simple shoulder bridge.  Strong glutes make for a more relaxed psoas (due to reciprocal inhibition), so make sure you do both a double leg shoulder bridge and a single leg shoulder bridge.
And here's a stretch you can do virtually anywhere:  Stand up and stagger your legs, making sure your sit bones are aiming toward the floor.  Then, bend the front knee, allowing the back leg to bend slightly, but mainly focusing on that hip moving into slight extension. From there reach the same arm as the back leg up over head and into a side bend... YUM.
Ideally, we would all have sit-to-stand desks (like we do now.... YAY), so that we could balance our sitting and standing as we work throughout the day. BUT! Even just being slightly more aware of  the ramifications of sitting will help you choose better exercises to do.  The few we've written about here can be done in minutes a day.
For fitness instructors out there, a greater awareness of what a body that sits all day feels like might help you choose a few exercises each session that really tackle the imbalances that occur from prolonged sitting.
Here's to happier hip flexors!


Friday, July 3rd 2015

Three Things You Can Do To Improve Your Pilates Practice Immediately!

Don't compete with others in the class, or in your Pilates DVD
This is the most important! Just as your body is unique, so to are your body's strengths, limitations, and needs! Comparing your form to another member of the class or the instructor on your Pilates DVD will not serve you most of the time!  Knowing and recognizing proper form for each Pilates exercise is great and will help with your mind body connection (more on that later), but forcing your body into a position it's not ready to be in or pushing yourself beyond your limits just for the sake of competition will more often than not derail what is best for you. 
The same thing goes for your progress-- Do not "SHOULD" on yourself!  Your path to better fitness, increased core stabilization, greater Pilates prowess or WHATEVER does not have some magic timetable intrinsically linked to it.  Just because your best friend or co-worker has the ability in their life to devote more time or exert more energy into their fitness doesn't mean that you have to approach your unique path to fitness the same way.  Goal setting is GREAT, don't get us wrong, but unreasonable or unattainable goal setting only sets expectations too high... and that's never good.  Pick ONE thing each lesson to really focus upon, and don't beat yourself up for the rest. :)
Don't Neglect the Subtleties...
Pilates is never just about the big muscles, which can be confusing, as the big muscles are the ones that deliver a certain "wow" factor.  Your Multifidus and Transversus Abdominis will NEVER be able to deliver the same intense feeling as working the quads or the glutes does, and yet they are very important components of core stabilization But guess what?! The more you pull your abs in, the more your Transversus Abdominis is engaged, so don't just think about doing this on the "ab" exercises.... With this in mind, every Pilates exercise is an ab exercise!
Then, don't neglect your extremities! Directing energy to the tips of your fingers and toes will enhance your Pilates experience, as more muscles will be activated, and (BONUS!), more calories burned.  Focusing in each and every Pilates exercise on energy through the full length of your limbs will intensify your practice and transform any Pilates workout or Pilates DVD into a GREAT one.
Use the Mind-Body Connection
This may sound a little "hokey", but if you thoughtfully concentrate on the muscles being worked in each Pilates exercise, you will inevitably put more energy into those muscles, which will, in turn, deliver more results.  And your mind-body connection is like a muscle-- the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes!  This will behoove you in daily life, as it will tune you into knowing when your core stabilization is effective and strong or needs some attention and reinforcement. 
Similarly, a strong mind-body connection serves your mind as well!  Focusing on your workout in lieu of thinking about your grocery list or your current problem at work will benefit your body and your mind. A great Pilates workout can be a mental break from your "to-do" list (or lists, ha ha!) as well as a strengthening and balancing regime for your body.
Friday, May 29th 2015


In Parts I & II of this series, we focused on exercises to train the feet in their role in BALANCING, and SHOCK ABSORPTION.
In Part III, we will explore how we can get the 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles and tendons, and 107 ligaments target so that we target the STRENGTH component of the feet.
Footwork Lower and Lift
-On the same spring setting at which footwork is performed, lower and lift the heels multiple times, paying careful attention to ALIGNMENT-- the weight should be traveling through the joint of the second toe.
-Alternate dropping one heel, then the other, making sure the femurs do not rotate (i.e., keep the knees pointed to the ceiling) and working through the feet to a full range of BOTH plantarflexion and dorsiflexion
Ankle Exercise
-With the chair set relatively heavy springs, stand facing the chair and place one foot on the pedal, with the knee, or just at the top of the tibia, at the front edge of the chair.  From there, just use movement at the ankle joint to press the pedal down, then resist the springs to return to the start position, focusing on alignment throughout.  Repeat
Lower and Lift
-With the pedal all the way down, face the chair and stand with both feet on the pedal, and hands holding onto the handles.  Release the ankles with control to allow the heels to sink toward the floor, then press up to as much plantarflexion as is available to you.  The goal is to get fully up to your "tippy toes"
At Home
Lift and Lower
Stand in front of a mirror and rise up to your "tippy toes" (i.e., to the balls of your feet as high as you can).  Make sure that the knees stay straight.  Make sure that the knee and second toe on each side are in line.  Repeat 8-10x, or until you START to feel heat in the calves... Don't work to fatigue!  You may want to do this holding on to something at first!
Roll Through with Forced Arch
Stand with the feet sits bone distance apart, bend the knees, keeping the heels on the ground AND keep the spine and pelvis neutral.  In other words, keep the sits bones aiming to the ground and don't hinge forward at the hips.  Then, keeping the knees bent, lift up to the balls of the feet and create as much plantarflexion as is comfortable.  Then, straighten the knees, trying to maintain the plantarflexion of the ankle.  Then lower the heels to the start position.  Repeat 4-8x, then,
Reverse:  Rise up to the balls of your feet.  Then, maintaining full plantarflexion, bend the knees, creating even more plantarflexion.  Keep your sits bones aiming to the ground.  Then, lower the heels, keeping the knees bent, feeling the stretch through the Soleus.  Then, straighten the legs.  Repeat 4-8x.
CARDIOLATEST Barre Workout for a Dancer's Body features the Roll through with Forced Arch


Sunday, May 17th 2015