Pilates on Fifth & Ultimate Pilates

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In Part I of this series, we focused on exercises to train the feet in their role in BALANCING.
In Part II, we will explore how we can get the 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles and tendons, and 107 ligaments target so that the role of the feet in SHOCK ABSORPTION is targeted.
Shock Absorption 
Use a Jumpboard! Either the traditional jumpboard or a trampoline-like jumpboard will work.
On both feet, and on a LIGHT LOAD, bend the knees, then "jump".... THE FOCUS SHOULD BE ON THE LANDING....  The goal is to land on the ball of the foot first, and then decelerate as the heels touch and then the knees straighten.
Then do the same thing on just one foot, then the other.
Pilates online workout 'CARDIOLATES on the Reformer with Jumpboard' features this exercise
Footwork with the Split Pedal --- Reciprocal ankle movement
Put a foam cushion on the knees to provide instantaneous feedback if the movement is coming from the hips or knees and not the ankle.
Focus on pushing the pedal down with one foot, then the other, ensuring that the pedal moves ONLY in response to ankle movement.
At Home
Working one foot at a time, lift the heel to rise up to the ball of the foot (plantar flexing the ankle) then press from your toes (as if jumping from that position) and reach your toes straight to the floor.  Then, "land" by allowing the pads of toes to touch the floor first, then the ball of the foot, then finally the heel.  Rolling through the feet.
Perform this exercise on both feet seated and standing.
Wednesday, May 13th 2015


What has
26 bones
33 joints
19 muscles and tendons
and 107 ligaments?
Your foot!
And because you have two feet, DOUBLE that number...
Now, think about how much time you spend on your feet....
Almost zero, right?
That's ALOT of neglect for all of those bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons!
Our feet are obviously important for standing, walking, running and jumping, but they also serve an extremely important role in balance and coordination, as well as shock absorption and even alignment.
It's actually quite easy to incorporate more foot-focused-fitness into your Pilates workout.
In Part I, we'll focus exercises that target the role of the feet in balancing.
With 19 muscles and tendons in each foot, once you get those guys active and engaged, they can do wonders for balance!  Here are some exercises you can do for yourself and/or your clients at your Pilates studio and also at home
Stand on an unstable surface such as a balance cushion, rebounder, a "dyna disk" (harder) or the dome side of a BoSu (hardest)
Balance Cusion
Dyna Disk
Stand on both feet and feel the weight going balanced between the heels and the toes
  • Bend and Straighten the Knees

Stand on one leg and keep the weight balanced on that foot

  • Bend and Straighten the Knee
    - Focus on the balance STARTING in the feet, not in the bigger muscles around the hip and even the knee
    - Increase difficulty by standing on a balance cushion
    - As in the above exercise, focus on the balance originating in the feet, with a strong connection to the floor   
At Home
In bare feet, first stand on both feet and spread the toes wide.... feel a line of energy shooting down through the soles of the feet.  A good image here is to think of each foot as its own tripod, with one point in the center of the heel, and two additional points equidistant from one another on the ball of the foot.
Then, shift the weight to one foot, and try to balance with the same imagery in mind, focusing on the feet.  Switch legs.
Tuesday, May 12th 2015

Why Men Should do Pilates...Part 2

As a follow up to our last blog with the Top 10 list of "Why Men Should do Pilates", we would like to address the benefits of Pilates that typically appeal to men.  Of course, these benefits are NOT gender specific, so women -- read on!  You are not left out!  :)
We are happy to boast that many of our private clients at Pilates on Fifth are male! With a few exceptions, they all use Pilates as either cross-training or as a supplement to another activity they love to do.  Pilates trains your muscles from the inside out, meaning that the deepest musculature is targeted first, followed by the more superficial, then the most superficial muscles.  Ironically, this method of muscle-targeting might actually be "the thing" that initially steers men away from Pilates.  But, all have found that with continued training, strengthening muscles from the inside out serves them in ANY pursuit.
Training the smaller stabilizing muscles
Because smaller, deeper muscles are targeted first, Pilates might not "feel" the same initially as traditional weight training.  Some men feel "they haven't done anything" after their first Pilates session, because they are comparing the feeling of working muscles in Pilates to the feeling of working muscles with weight training.   But, Pilates does not initially target the bigger, more superficial muscles like the quads, glutes, biceps or triceps.  Instead, Pilates starts with the deep, smaller, inner muscles of the body:  those that stabilize the spine and joints and are responsible for posture.  Training these muscles involves low loads (i.e. low resistance) and smaller movements.  Because there is no "wow" factor in training these smaller stabilizers, the knee-jerk reaction can often be a little bit of doubt as to the efficacy of the workout.  Those seeking the proverbial "burn" may wonder, "am I working anything at all?" 
The muscles of the rotator cuff are an excellent example of deeper stabilizing muscles that don't provide a "burn" when trained!  Though the muscles that comprise the rotator cuff do generate movement, we rely on these muscles for stability of the shoulder joint more than power.  In other words, they are the muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint AGAINST the power that the larger muscles (pecs, lats, deltoids, etc.) generate.   Anyone who's suffered a rotator cuff injury knows that the rehab exercises are subtle, small range...and not very interesting.  Similarly, the Pilates exercises that target the deep stabilizers of the spine, mainly the Transversus Abdominis and the Multifidus, are even less exciting -- there is virtually no movement at all!  This lack of pizzazz often prevents men who crave the high of exertion other exercise forms deliver from continuing with Pilates.  But, read on!  In the long term, the benefits of Pilates will trump the lack of initial pizzazz!  In fact, Pilates may just give your old exercise routine NEW pizzazz!  (we have a client who said just this!)
Jump & Throw Farther.  Run Faster.
So why train the deeper, smaller muscles?  Well, once these smaller muscles are recruited to play the best supporting actor role for the bigger superficial "power generator" muscles, even more power can be generated!  For the nerds out there, many articles exist online referencing studies conducted on the timing of recruitment of the muscles that stabilize the joints.  More specifically, the studies highlight the difference in the timing of recruitment of deep core muscles and deep stabilizers between professional and recreational athletes.  In a nutshell, in a professional athlete, the core muscles and deep stabilizers engage FASTER than the same muscles in the non-professional. These smaller stabilizing muscles are muscles of speed and support, not muscles of strength.  But, when they are recruited more quickly, more power can be generated. Remember, Pilates is a system of exercises designed to progress the practitioner from the stabilizers to the more superficial muscles.  Our male clients who are avid tennis players, golfers and runners all remark about improved aptitude after starting Pilates.
Baseball pitcher in end range before a throw
Increase Range of Motion = More Power
While Pilates is NOT "just stretching" (which is another question we get a lot....but that's a different blog), due to the nature of spring resistance, the muscles become less bulky and more streamlined, without sacrificing any strength.  This, in turn, increases flexibility.  More flexibility means increased range of motion, and that contributes to to enhanced performance as well.  Think of it this way:  you are the kicker on a football team.  You are able to take your leg back into 15 degrees of hip extension before a kick and you kick the ball x number of yards.  Then, while maintaining your strength exactly as is, you increase your flexibility so that you can take your leg back into 20 degrees of hip extension before you kick..... just imagine how much farther the ball would go!  A rubber band flies farther the more you pull it back!
Improve Balance
From tennis to golf to skiing and more, every sport requires balance.  Even swimming requires balance, as one must prepare and dive into the water symmetrically for optimum speed!  Pilates improves balance not only by augmenting core strength and stability, but also for increasing body awareness of alignment and relative body positions in space.  Furthermore, as individuals age, balance becomes more important as it increases longevity, so starting to work on balance early has absolutely no downside!
In Summary
Men!  We are not asking you to give up your favorite exercise regime!  But we encourage you to give Pilates a try, especially if you've reached a plateau or set-back with your current routine or your recreational sport.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Monday, April 27th 2015

Why Men Should do Pilates...Part 1

It always amazes us that despite the fact that Pilates was created by a MAN -- a man named Joesph Pilates, Pilates as a form of exercise is still widely considered something for women!  People STILL ask, "can men do Pilates?"  "Do men do Pilates?", "Is for Pilates for Men?" 
Top 10 Reasons Why Men Should do Pilates
10)  You can use cool phrases like "core strength" and actually know what you're talking about.
9)  You'll impress your golf buddies with your improved game.
8)  Old aches and pains will vanish.
7)  Your tennis serve will be formidable...and beware of your backhand!
6)  Your posture will be stately (everyone will think you're taller).
5)  You can impress your co-workers with your incredible balancing skills.
4)  It will make you a better runner -- or at least you'll run without pain!
3)  Everyone will think you've lost weight-- without you losing a pound.
2)  Say hello to a 6 pack... or even an 8 pack!
1) The company isn't so bad (uh... Pilates studios and classes are predominantly filled with women...)
Wednesday, April 22nd 2015

Exercise doesn't JUST increase muscle matter, it also increases GRAY MATTER, i.e. brain function!

It isn't too often that there is an article that is BOTH about exercise and TWINS! But alas, here it is!
And here's the outcome:  Exercise doesn't JUST increase muscle matter, it also increases GRAY MATTER, i.e. brain function!  
What makes this study particularly remarkable is the fact that there was NOT a huge difference in the twins' diets.  Rather, the difference lay entirely with the fact that one twin exercised regularly, while the other twin (called "co-twin" in this article.... how awesome is that?) did not.
Quoted directly from the article, link above....  "Big benefits. The researchers found that the twins with regular exercise routines had less body fat, healthier insulin levels, and indeed larger volumes of gray matter in the brain's striatal and prefrontal cortex. More gray matter is a good thing, since it's where information from sensory and motor neurons are processed in the brain"
If you are like the two of us, the physical benefits of exercise were not surprising at all.  But the mental differences were quite astonishing!  Before reading this article, we had never really truly known what really constituted "gray matter", but knowing now that it's the area of the brain where information from sensory and motor neurons are processed AND that exercise helps that..... HOORAY!!!
Now we can't wait to go workout... we'll feel smarter too....
Thursday, April 9th 2015

Pilates and Posture

Whether you are familiar with it or not, there is no denying that when it comes to Pilates, posture is critical. We have assembled some important information below that will prove to be beneficial for you when trying to master the art of posture while practicing Pilates.
We often get asked to recommend a Pilates DVD for posture, and people also ask us about  “Pilates posture”.  Well, a specific “Pilates posture” does not exist!  Pilates helps with posture by strengthening a variety of muscles in the torso – from the deep to the superficial – so that every BODY can achieve the posture that is best for them.  Life pulls us in all different directions, but mainly forward.  From new moms to outdoor laborers to executives and other desk workers, life pulls us forward.  Pilates targets the deep muscles around the spine and the muscles of the upper back under the scapula to help each individual discover their own more upright posture.  Additionally, Pilates also focuses on ideal posture and alignment of the hip joint and lower back so that a strong foundation for great posture can be achieved.
What is the most difficult thing that comes with posture?
Recognizing your own posture habit and correcting it is the most difficult challenge to overcome to achieve good posture. At the same time, however, it is the key to how to improve your posture! Whatever age you are, it took your body exactly that many years to arrive at your current posture – so it’s not going to change overnight.  Pilates exercises for posture help each individual become aware of his or her own habits, both sports-related and lifestyle related so that changes can be implemented on a daily basis.  Sports-related habits include range of motion disparities between sides such as the difference in range of motion between the serving arm in tennis vs. the other arm or rotation of the torso in golf.  Lifestyle habits include ways of sitting, standing, carrying a bag, talking on the phone, holding a child, etc.  It’s often the sum total of all the little things we do inadvertently every day that DERAIL optimal posture!
How long would it take the average person to become proficient in posture?
The more a person makes “good posture” a goal in every aspect of his or her life, the faster improvement will be seen.  If someone only concentrates on holding good posture during two one-hour Pilates sessions a week (or two times through a Pilates DVD for posture weekly), then improvement will take much longer!  For instance, if your Pilates teacher points out to you that you have a tendency to elevate one or both shoulders when you perform Pilates exercises for posture, you’ll improve much faster if you become aware of this habit yourself as you use a computer, drive, cook or just walk down the street.  It’s amazing how quickly people can achieve good posture just by thinking about it – always!  BUT!  Do remember that just as ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY, so too does it take time to build strong postural habits…. Don’t expect too much of yourself! 
Most importantly, ideal posture is NOT a quick fix, but a PROCESS, and it must be treated as such! Posture is something that you're much better off thinking of daily making corrections 3-4 random times during the day and making subtle changes as opposed to only working on it once a week!
Does great posture take great strength?
Initially, great posture may feel like it takes great strength, as just thinking about it is effortful too.  Also, the muscles that support great posture may have been underused up until now and thus may be weak and elongated.  But, that being said, the learning curve is not too steep!  For instance, forward head posture is one of the most common posture problems in America.  This isn’t surprising since we are all in school from a young age studying over desks, then we go to college and spend more time studying at desks and then statistically speaking, most people take desk jobs (lawyers, executives, accountants, secretaries), so roughly spend their entire lives at a desk!  And all moms usually experience this as they are bent over their babies for many years!  So since the head weighs 12-15 pounds, that’s 12-15 pounds pulling on all the muscles of the upper back – elongating and weakening these muscles.  Initially, bringing the head back atop the shoulders may feel extremely odd!  The body has become accustomed to a more forward posture!  So in the first two weeks, as one begins to strengthen the muscles associated with proper alignment, it may feel like it takes tremendous effort.  But we promise it gets easier!  Awareness is the first key, and then implementing change into daily activity is next – and if one does this, the muscles will begin to strengthen in the right position. 
Postural muscles are muscles of endurance as opposed to muscles of strength. In other words, our postural muscles need to have the ability to contract at a constant level over long periods of time. On top of that, as opposed to absolute strength, relative strength is more important. When it comes to how to improve your posture, a BALANCE of muscle groups is vital for the postural muscles to function optimally. 
Are younger people more apt to have better posture than older people?
Younger people have not had as many years to develop bad posture, so one would expect younger people to have better posture.  However, in the days of video games, computers, iphones, ipads and a host of other digital gadgets, poor posture seems to be starting earlier compared to those of prior generations. 
What muscles are most important when it comes to posture?
A good, strong core will be the foundation for all great posture.  If the core is weak, then great posture is difficult to achieve.  Next, the shoulder girdle stabilizers in the back play a VERY key role, particularly the lower trapezius and the middle trapezius muscles.  These muscles are often neglected because they are not VANITY muscles, meaning muscles that you can see in the mirror!  However, these are EXTREMELY important postural muscles, albeit smaller ones, that play a significant role not only in great posture, but in keeping the neck tension free as well.  (GREAT side benefit, no?) Of course, Pilates exercises for posture target all of these muscles!  In particular, we’ve created a FREE YOUR NECK WORKOUT that will take you through the most vital posture muscles!
We created a specific online Pilates DVD for Posture, particularly great posture throughout the day!  MORNING POSTURE PREP
Can people who are not in the best physical condition still have good posture? How?
Ironically, YES!  Right now we're thinking of our grandmothers on BOTH our maternal and paternal sides.  Neither grew up in an era where women "exercised", yet they both had lovely posture.  In analyzing that, we deduced that THEIR DAILY LIFESTYLES DID NOT DERAIL IDEAL POSTURE, whereas most of our daily lifestyles do..... Truly, sitting at a desk is as close to the kiss of death as it comes.... the hip joint is flexed and thus the psoas is shortened, THEN, on top of that, the head usually moves 3-5 inches forward as it unconsciously moves closer to the computer screen.....  ugh! 
We are truly in a battle against our daily habits… until we change them, of course!
What is the best way to master posture?
Sadly, there is no magic button.  The best way to master posture is to be mindful of it as often as you possibly can.  And, unless you have the luxury of being a professional athlete or artist, or not needing to work, this becomes increasingly difficult.  We KNOW A LOT about posture and what needs to be done, and yet LIFE gets in the way!  SO!  The best thing to do is think about it at random moments when you can:  waiting in line... anywhere, brushing your teeth, driving in your car, sitting in a waiting room....  Posture is something that you can secretly train at random moments during the day, AND IT WILL YIELD EXPONENTIAL RESULTS!!!
How much are you losing out on in Pilates if you do not have good posture?
You’re not “losing out” as much as you’re reinforcing bad habits if you practice Pilates with poor posture.  Even the EFFORT to have the correct posture trains the right muscles, so you’re not de-railing your efforts if you’re not perfect when you start.
If ideal posture in Pilates is not possible, then first and foremost, improper biomechanics as a result of "faulty" posture might make certain exercises be uncomfortable.  While expert Pilates instructors will be capable of modifying exercises to accommodate the postural imperfections, others might neglect these subtle corrections, which could result in discomfort or even minor injury.
When you are thinking of how to improve your posture, first and foremost ask your instructor to share any observations he/she may have made.  Then, you know what you need to correct!  Then, you can work on strengthening and releasing the appropriate muscles. And remember, at the beginning, middle and end of the day, we are UPRIGHT BEINGS.  With this in mind, we filmed a COREALIGN® Workout for Perfect Posture to help reinforce good postural habits.
Any final tips or pointers to succeeding with posture?
IT'S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT!  Seriously.  There is no "quick fix" to posture. It is an endurance expedition and requires mindfulness as many times a day as you can think about it until it is a habit!  So!  On that note, think about your posture when you're on your cell phone, when you're cooking, when you're at your desk, when you're in your exercise class (which may or may not give cues about optimal posture), when you're waiting in line ANYWHERE, when you're walking..... get it?


Saturday, April 4th 2015

Pilates Myths Exposed

As Pilates aficionados, we find it very important to address some popular myths surrounding our practice. First and foremost, let's discuss the most common myths about Pilates.

Myth #1 - Pilates is only for flexible people -- FALSE!  Pilates exercises can be modified for virtually any level of flexibility!  Don't be fooled by the Pilates models out there with super flexibility. Pilates and flexibility don't have to go hand in hand. Joseph Pilates DESIGNED his system for REHAB..... do you think those people started out super flexible?  We think not!
Myth #2 - You have to be strong to do Pilates -- FALSE!  Again, let's go back to the knowledge that Pilates started as a method of rehabilitation.  The whole goal with Pilates is to catch the individual WHEREVER they may be and build strength from there.  Pilates as strength training is VERY effective, but you don't have to be strong to start!
Myth #3 - Pilates is for women -- FALSE!  Just google "male athletes who do Pilates", and read on! The benefits of Pilates for men are VAST! Pilates is EXCELLENT cross-training, and that's typically why men do Pilates:  to better their golf games, their tennis games or their running.
Myth #4 - Pilates is too hard -- FALSE!  It might SEEM hard at first to some, as they are tapping into muscles that have looooooooong been dormant!  But here's the good news:  these muscles are small and adapt quickly.... the learning curve is quick! ONE LESSON IS NOT ENOUGH! In an ideal world, we suggest that you give Pilates a try for AT LEAST 10 sessions!
Myth #5 - Pilates will spot reduce -- FALSE!  And here's the harsh truth:  NO FORM OF EXERCISE WILL SPOT REDUCE!  The only way to reduce fat is to burn fat, and that is through cardiovascular exercise.  It's science.
Myth #6 - Pilates is "just" AB exercises -- FALSE!  We can name a dozen Pilates mat exercises off the tops of our heads (and dozens and dozens more when you include other equipment) that target muscles other than the ABS... Have you ever seen the arms, legs or back of someone who does Pilates regularly?  
Myth #7 - Pilates is "just" for the wealthy -- FALSE!  Our mat classes at Pilates on Fifth NYC are as little as $18 each, and our online site, www.ultimatepilatesworkouts.com offers unlimited streaming videos for only $9.95 a month.... that's only $0.33 day for unlimited Pilates!  
What most people should know about Pilates...
It can be exactly what each person needs it to be. PERIOD. A skilled, well-trained and/or veteran Pilates instructor will be able to adapt and modify Pilates exercises to any person at ANY age, fitness level, or injury state.  Although Pilates does fall into the category of "Mind/Body fitness", it does so in a functional, practical way.  Essentially, you want to be MINDful of every movement of the BODY so that the biomechanics are as optimal as possible.  This training will develop skills and body awareness that will transfer into all aspects of life and daily movement.
Men vs. Women
Absolutely! Men's and women's needs may be different, but Pilates can most definitely serve both efficiently and effectively. Why?  Because we ALL need core strength, regardless of gender, and Pilates delivers!  The difference is in the HOW...  In our 15 years training clients, we have noticed that women are generally stronger in their cores relative to their peripheral muscles, while men are typically stronger in their peripheral muscles than they are in their cores.  The goal for BOTH groups is to create a BALANCE of a strong core with strong peripheral muscles, but, with the starting points being different, the approach will necessarily be tailored to the unique needs of each group.  For example, Pilates for men might involve exercises that involve more muscle groups simultaneously or more planks to deliver more intensity.
Pilates for Men
What if you are not a flexible person, but you are really interested in doing Pilates?
We have an exercise for you! Pilates and flexibility can be tackled together, with great success. The beautiful thing about Pilates is that it is a SYSTEM of PROGRESSIVE exercises, so you can start with your current level, whatever it may be.  While the reformer will aid in increasing flexibility most rapidly, even Pilates mat exercises with the stretch band (we have quite a few Pilates and flexibility videos with the stretch band) will produce amazing results.  Moreover, Pilates exercises for flexibility don't actually FEEL like stretching, as there is nothing STATIC about them!
Older people vs. younger people
Older people can do Pilates JUST LIKE younger people. However, we do NOT recommend that they START with classes.  Actually, in an ideal world, no one would START with group classes... EVERYONE would start with AT LEAST one or two privates so he/she could learn not only how to do the exercises properly, but also what to focus on and/or modify for his/her unique needs.  Pilates as strength training is slightly different than traditional strength training, and knowing your body is key to exponential success.
Older individuals in particular can experience great strength increases, as Pilates is NOT about absolute strength. Pilates as strength training is about relative strength..... meaning, how strong you are in your own body.  THIS is where core strength plays one of its most crucial roles... BALANCE!!!!!
Pilates as strength training


Thursday, January 29th 2015

Analyzing the Differences Between Pilates and Yoga

To start, we would like to provide you with a little background regarding our history with both Pilates and Yoga.

We started doing Yoga while in graduate school, and then discovered Pilates shortly thereafter while on tour dancing. We continued to do both alternatively, but always found that we gravitated more to Pilates than to Yoga.  For many others who start doing Pilates and Yoga, they will gravitate toward yoga.  However, we do NOT think that Pilates is "better" than yoga, even though we have owned and operated Pilates on Fifth for almost 15 years! Rather, we think that it depends on the body type of the person, his/her goals, his/her personality, and, most of all, his/her enjoyment of either one!

Most people want to understand the primary differences between Pilates and Yoga. So, let’s get started...

The primary difference lies in the origins of each.  While both are now physical pursuits, Yoga developed out of meditative and spiritual practices, while Pilates originated as a method of rehabilitation.

When practicing yoga, the flow actually does help you to "get in a zone" so to speak, which could, of course, be considered spiritual or meditative. When doing Pilates, the attention to detail and proper execution (which stems from the origins of rehabilitation) keeps the mind focused on muscular emphasis and form more than the flow and thus does not lend itself to a meditative pursuit. We are NOT saying that Yoga does NOT focus on proper form or that Pilates does not aim to have a flow! BUT, the primary objective of each IS different.  Moreover, the poses in yoga are very much akin to active stretching exercises, while the majority of Pilates moves focus on core strengthening exercises.

While writing this blog, we talked to many of our clients and instructors who practice both Pilates and Yoga and across the board, all voiced (independent of one another) that they practice Pilates for core strengthening exercises, and Yoga more for pure stretching exercises.

The physical condition one must be in to start Yoga or Pilates is not any different. Quite thankfully, fabulous Pilates and Yoga instructors can tailor practices to meet every client’s needs, in any physical condition. This, of course, only works if clients inform their instructors that they are new to exercises or have a special condition. So be honest when you start a class!

Advantages of one over the other?

Many people we talk to want to know about the biggest advantages of doing Pilates as opposed to Yoga, and vice versa. To answer that question, we can only speak for ourselves.... we are NOT trying to purport that our experience applies to everyone!  We find that our dynamic core strength improves GREATLY with Pilates, more than it does with Yoga. Because Yoga is a series of static poses, we find that more strength is built in the isometric hold of each pose, rather than the transition between each.  With Pilates, on the other hand, you rarely hold a pose, and thus you are strengthening the core and surrounding musculature dynamically, along the length of the muscle and not in one position. (And that's NOT saying that BOTH are not HARD! ... just different!)

While you can gain flexibility with Pilates, we usually see much greater flexibility gains with people who do yoga. We find that Pilates delivers more core strength than yoga, while Yoga delivers more flexibility than Pilates.

We are grateful that BOTH disciplines target muscles all over the body depending on the exercises (Pilates) or poses (yoga) that the instructor selects. However, from our personal experiences, we feel our abs more after doing Pilates, and our arms more after doing yoga!


Breathing is also important, as it is designed to facilitate relaxation as well as proper execution of the exercises. To the extent that this can be accomplished, the breath IS just as important in each discipline, but oftentimes, clients who are afraid of  "not breathing right" hold their breaths, which is clearly a terrible thing! (And what does “not breathing right” mean, anyway?)

Which demands more body control, Pilates or Yoga?

This relates back to the questions about which is best for a beginner. Both systems are progressive, which is AWESOME for individuals who are really aiming to increase their overall levels of fitness or have an additional goal. In both systems, the fundamental movements (usually upon which many of the other moves are based) typically DON'T require a lot of body control, but as you progress, more and more body control is required.  Advanced moves in BOTH systems require a great deal of body control, muscular awareness and concentration.

Class setting vs. one-on-one

With any movement system, ideally EVERYONE would start with private lessons to insure proper form, biomechanics, breathing, etc. However, this is not financially feasible in many cases, so classes are great. We keep our Pilates mat classes at Pilates on Fifth limited to 10 people so that we know clients are still receiving individual attention. We recommend that for yoga too!

More challenging for a beginner?

Because each individual’s background and lifestyle determines their strengths and weaknesses, either Pilates or Yoga will be more challenging!  For instance, a professional football player may “click” with Pilates more, while a professional hurdler may “click” with yoga.

But this also depends on the instructor. In both systems, the fundamental or most basic moves are EASILY grasped by beginners, so look for an instructor who layers the exercises as he/she teaches and explains movement well. The most basic exercises should be taught first, and then the progressions introduced so that attendees can increase the difficulty safely and gradually.

If it’s core strengthening exercises AND stretching exercises that you’re looking for, we recommend these workouts on ultimatepilatesworkouts.com!

Dancers Legs and Butt Workout

Pilates and Stretch Level 3

Dynamic Stretch and Tone with the Stretch Band

Stretch and Strengthen with the Stretch Band

Stretch Band Workout for Dancer’s Body

Monday, January 19th 2015

Which comes first, the posture or the mood?

A number of articles have appeared recently discussing the relationship between good posture and improved moods.  In a nutshell, people who stand up straight feel more enthusiastic and positive about life; people who slouch feel more fearful and hostile.  (So now you know….avoid slouching people!)  But all joking aside, the main point of these research studies and articles is the following:  if you want to improve your mood, just stand up straight!  We all know that one of the benefits of Pilates is improved posture, but by the logic presented in the articles, Pilates exercises should then improve your mood, too.

CoreAlign and CoreAlign Teacher Training at Pilates on Fifth

CoreAlign® for Perfect Posture Workout (video still)

Well, for anyone who has gone through a hard time (or just had a “bad day”), how hard is it to “just stand up straight?!”  I mean really, if I’m feeling sad and someone said to me “just stand up straight” – well, what I would like to say to that person is unprintable.  We all know that expressions such as “cheer up”, “calm down”, “be quiet” and now “stand up straight” have the opposite effect on the person to whom the comment is directed, and all the Pilates exercises in the world will not likely change this.

So after searching “how posture affects mood “ (top results below), I decided to search “how mood affects posture.”  This topic means a lot to me as I recently went through a terrible divorce that took years to resolve, and, despite the myriad of benefits of Pilates, I could and can see that my posture suffered.  To drive this point home, my identical twin sister made my new collapsed, dejected posture abundantly clear to me – and everyone!  (The ONLY downside to being a twin, by the way!  Not complaining!)  What made it worse was people who would say, “your sister has such lovely posture.”  Was I supposed to say “thank you” and NOT feel like a troll?

Anyway, to my surprise, when I searched “how mood affects posture”, my search engine asked “do you mean ‘how posture affects mood?’”  No, I meant what I typed!  But actually, the dominant results today are ultra-positive “how posture affects mood” articles.  Stand up straight and you will feel better.  Period.  So just do an online Pilates DVD and you’ll feel great. Just do it. (yah, right)

Pilates for a Beautiful Back Workout (video still)

Instead of getting miffed at this, I realized “Wait!  Posture should be dynamic, not static.  Posture is movement and movement should be joyous.”

So if you’re reading this and are trying to have better posture OR improve your mood, my suggestion is….DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE.  And if possible, move in a way you enjoy moving!  And if that’s Pilates, well GREAT!  We have a few online Pilates DVD 's that are specifically geared towards posture, but will hopefully be fun for you too!


Pilates exercises for posture benefits of Pilates                                                

            Free Your Neck Workout                                                                                       Morning Core Workout

We also have a Morning Posture Prep Workout, too!  ...only 10 minutes!




Tuesday, December 23rd 2014

Pilates for a Dancer's Body -- the Dancer's Legs and Butt Workout on UPW

People ALWAYS ask us if they can get "a dancer's body" by doing Pilates, and, sadly, there's not a simple answer to that question!  Truly, if you want a dancer's body, it's probably a good idea to DANCE (as well as do Pilates, of course)! And by dance, we don't mean "fitness dance"!  We mean a structured dance class that focuses on true dance technique, whether it be ballet, ballroom, tap, tango, swing, etc. THAT plus Pilates will help to sculpt the coveted dancer's body.

As dancers who danced, then worked in corporations, then went to graduate school, then danced again, then stopped dancing to open and run Pilates on Fifth, only to start dancing again a (ahem) few years later, we have experienced FIRST HAND the difference true dancing creates in one's body.  It is only in the past year and a half that we've really started to analyze and seek out the "missing elements" that either enhance the look of a "dancer's body", or derail it.  That being said, we've figured out one additional answer to the "how to get a dancer's body" question, and that's STRETCHING!!!!!  We think that most people would be absolutely dumbfounded if they knew how much dancers stretch.  It is truly staggering!

In that spirit, we've created the Dancer's Legs and Butt workout!  It combines essential core strengthening moves, along with great exercises for the legs and butt that combine strength AND flexibility within the workout.  This 51 minute workout left us both feeling strong, lithe and free.  We hope y'all enjoy it too!  Find the Dancer's Legs and Butt workout here!

ALSO!!  Don't ever get discouraged!  The profession of dance naturally weeds out "naon-dancer" bodies.  Just as the sport of basketball eliminates shorter individuals, so too doest the profession of dance weed out non-dancer bodies (especially ballet).  BUT!   You can still improve on what you have!  A bulldog's body will never be a greyhound, but that bulldog can still look darn good in its own little skin.

Monday, December 15th 2014