Anula Maiberg gets real—and attempts to uncover some truths—about some of the tough Pilates questions that tend to get overlooked.

What’s the Problem?

Someone asked me recently: What do you do? And per usual, my initial response is a panic-stricken silence followed by, “I’m a Pilates teacher.” My hope is usually for the person asking to know what I mean and to move on with the conversation. Sometimes the person asking has no idea what I am talking about. They will generally follow up with: “Oh, I’ve heard of that, what is it exactly?” I get a little sweaty just writing about it. In the moment, I actually don’t know how to answer this question. Do I teach exercise? Do I teach movement? Do I teach super special stylized exercise movements? What does that mean? Why doesn’t the person asking have a clearer image in their minds of what I do when I say “Pilates”—the same way they might have if I said yoga teacher, spinning instructor or Crossfit coach? The answer is that I actually don’t know what I’m doing in any linear sense. There is no sound bite that works well at a party that doesn’t make me sounds totally insane.

  • “I teach people to move well and prevent injuries and rehab injuries and also become stronger.”—I sound super vague
  • “I teach the work of this one man, Mr. Pilates, who had a vision of how all people should exercise, like literally, in the world.”—I belong to a cult
  • “I teach on these huge machines…yeah…like torture devices.”—I’m a dominatrix
  • “So…there’s an order, and it makes total sense but you gotta kinda be there to do it this one way…no there’s no music…um…and there are all these springs…and it’s really hard, and you have to focus…but it’s like fast, but sometimes slow, depending on the studio and the teacher and the city and the day and the temperature…”—I sound insane

What’s the problem? The problem is that there is no colloquial cultural understanding around Pilates because as a general rule, Pilates teachers live in fear of not being “something” enough. Not traditional enough. Not innovative enough. Not interesting or authentic or intellectual or rehabilitative enough. So where there is a sense of lacking there is also a void. The void is filled with fear. The fear feeds itself into infinity, and instead of Pilates being sexy and accessible, it’s strict and intimidating. I’ve made it my personal crusade to make what I do be something anyone can join. Often I don’t know what I am asking them to join, but I know I have good intentions.

I am inviting people to come practice being better at life, without any spiritual or nutritional component. I am inviting students to practice an economy of movement. I am inviting humans to use their muscles with efficiency end efficacy. I am passionate about wanting folks to do the “thing” to get “it” to feel all the feelings they have about being human inside of a body that moves in the world for as long as it can until it stops. I want them to learn choreography, and remember names of things, and repeat and control, and release and contract, and push and pull, and two-way stretch, and be functional but also fun and invigorating and dry brush and zest and internal shower with lots or props or no props with light springs or really heavy ones, and leave sweaty but pain free and complete. Is that too much to ask?

Currently the culture in Pilates is based within the walls of individual studios. The tone is set by the owners and instructors as to who they are attracting with their particular marketing strategies. Each studio is its own ecosystem in a larger planet. The planet doesn’t know what it is yet, but the little systems within it do and maybe that’s enough. I don’t know. What I do know is that in the next few months, I am going to delve deep into what the problem really is. I plan to ask my colleagues some tough questions.

Some hot topic questions such as:

  • Is there a traditional or contemporary approach? Does it matter? Is it just too boring to even address?
  • Who is the “Pilates Police,” and why am I so afraid of them?
  • Why is Facebook the scariest place in the world of Pilates (especially in picture/video form)?

Discuss among yourselves and get ready for next time. Fasten your seat belts. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!


Anula Maiberg is a graduate of the Kathy Grant Heritage Training Masters Program led by Cara Reeser. Anula is passionate about upholding the traditions and principles of Pilates while being able to update and personalizing them for the needs of her students. She also feels strongly about volunteering her time to the LGBTQ community, and believes Pilates is a wonderful movement modality and a tool for healing in a supportive environment. 

May 23, 2017 at 10:48 am
Category: Anula Maiberg, Articles, Pilates Blog
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