Q&A with a Pilates Expert: Brooke Siler
Earlier this week we showed you some of the fittest women over 50. One of them was Madonna.
Today we’re excited to bring you a Q&A with Pilates expert Brooke Siler, who just so happens to have trained Madonna, and other fit celebs like Liv Tyler, Rachel Weisz, and Kirsten Dunst (to name a few).
For those unfamiliar with Pilates, check out the videos at the end of this post for some beginner routines.
How did you get into Pilates? (I read that you fell in love with it while working at a gym. What did you love about Pilates?)
I had never found an exercise method so intelligent in its design. The movements ask for the utmost control and coordination and I loved the challenge of finding such precision throughout the workout!
What benefits do you feel Pilates has given you?
Above all else I feel Pilates has empowered me in my life. It sounds extreme, but once you recognize the amount of mastery you can gain with your body you begin to recognize that everything is possible too. Physically Pilates has given balance to my muscular body in ways that make me virtually injury-proof. I’m strong and flexible where and when I need to be. I’ve gained awareness and grace in my movements.
Would the results or effects received from Pilates practice be similar to those from Yoga?
Similar, but not the same. First we must note that there are many different forms of Yoga, and Pilates would be the most similar to the more athletic Yoga styles (Vinyasa and Ashtanga, I believe). In Pilates we employ opposition as our main movement dynamic in order to create length and tone. We do not stretch for stretch’s sake, nor do so without first engaging our “powerhouse” (core support) musculature. There is always strength and control at the onset of our movements.
What type of person would get the most benefit out of Pilates?
Absolutely any willing body can derive benefits from Pilates, however a person who is able to be present and accountable can gain the keys to the kingdom!
Why do you think Pilates has been so popular amongst celebrities?
Because it’s the most efficient use of an hour in the fitness business! You are simultaneously gaining strength, flexibility, awareness, breath control, calorie-burn and injury prevention in each and every session. Plus the movements create a long, lean look that works on screen.
Can you talk a bit about breathing? It seems to be quite an important part of Pilates.
Quite an important part of living actually .
In Pilates there is an emphasis on the exhalation – to rid the deep lung tissue of “stale air” – in order that we may gain a more complete inhalation. Joe Pilates wanted to stir up our sluggish circulatory systems through blood & oxygen flow and therefore the breath plays an integral part in our movements. We use rolling and twisting moves to get the most from our lungs. We also don’t allow the belly to expand much during our workouts so the majority of the breath’s movement is focused around the chest, side ribs and mid-upper back which helps open tight areas for increased lung capacity.
One of the major benefits of Pilates is that it strengthens the core. This seems to be a weak point in many people today. Why do you think that is?
Because it takes brain power to make it work and it won’t work by default. We use our arms and legs every day because we have to. Using our “core” takes a little more effort and most of us are, well, a little lazy in that area.
If someone were interested in Pilates, are workout DVDs a good starting point?
I like DVDs, but I really believe that if someone wants to achieve the most bang for their buck they should start with 1 private session from an authentic teacher (ClassicalPilates.net has a brilliant directory of all authentic teachers worldwide), if for no other reason than as a personal assessment. The problem with DVDs is that the teacher can’t see you! Matwork (which is the focus of most Pilates DVDs) is the most challenging aspect of the Pilates work because it uses your own body’s resistance without any framework. You can’t see if you’re working in an imbalanced manner. The right teacher can help inform you of what and how to work your individual body in the way that will provide the most benefit and the least risk. It’s worth the effort. DVDs can be a great option for people if they don’t have time to make it to a class or don’t have a studio in their area that offers authentic Pilates.
What’s next for you?
So much! I currently am in year 7 of teaching my Teacher Training program at re:AB and am working on expanding the program. I, and several of my amazing colleagues, have founded the Authentic Pilates Union, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the authentic work and philosophy of Joseph H. Pilates by expanding opportunities to study the traditional method of Contrology. I am teaching at the Gratz Chicago conference in May and the SUNY Purchase conference in June, plus booking fall workshops in Seattle and Spain. My husband and I have also recently bought a house outside the city that, along with our 2 beautiful boys, has become my favorite new endeavor. I’ve begun riding again and am hoping horses play a big role in my future.
Brooke is the Pilates guru named one of the top pursued trainers by Vogue magazine, author of two books including the New York Times best selling book “The Pilates Body” and “Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge”, star of her first DVD, “Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners” and owner of re:AB Pilates studio in New York City.
More on Pilates
@blogilates Cassey gives a great primer to one of her beginner Pilates routines:
Here’s a clip of Brooke demonstrating a mat routine:
So what do you think? Would you give Pilates a shot?