I am working on becoming a certified Pilates apparatus trainer at a wonderful place. It took three years of searching which included spending over 2,000.00 on a program that changed its regiment and training midway and moved its location across the country.  But, last month I found the right studio, a classical Pilates studio called Center for Movement.

I’ve been to many Pilates studios in CT., Westchester and all over the NYC area. I’ve taken classes on the reformer, tower and mat.  And upon walking out of these places, most often I would leave feeling better, but always the same, I had a good stretch, and my stomach muscles had been worked. For the most part, I didn’t take away anything transformative. Other times, my lower back would get a twinge of pain from an old injury or my injured meniscus would act up. Walking out of the studio, when I felt like I might have injured myself or aggravated that old injury, I’d tell myself that I must have pushed too hard in the class, knowing all along that the true Pilates instructor isn’t really supposed to “push” you to more than you know you can handle. I’ve listened to the instructor’s cues, the cadence in their instruction, their visual cues, etc. all the time trying to imagine whether I could adopt that style, command and authority when I someday became an instructor of the apparatus. I’ve seen instructors move the classes to rapid speeds, where one or two students are able to handle it, while others race to catch up. I’ve heard the cheerleader call out commands, the celebrity-like instructor amused by her own jokes, and I’ve even been in a class where the instructor paced back and forth, occasionally looking at her students on the mats reciting commands as if reading from a manual. Okay enough about that. These are the worst-case scenarios.

I’m a personal trainer and the clients that hold onto me are usually the ones who don’t want a cheerleader, or a drill sergeant. When I went to Center of Movement and took a reformer class with Elle, one of the founders of the studio, I knew I had found a great gift, the right home for my Pilates training.  It’s an understatement to say that Elle is someone who truly cares about her students. She has great integrity in her work, respects the people that come to her, gives everything she has (and this is a lot) in her teaching.

It’s possible that what makes Elle such a wonderful teacher is that she knows the authentic Joseph Pilates method, having studied with one of his great disciples, Romana. But, if you look a little deeper it is much more than that. Elle doesn’t teach from a place of superiority. Her teaching comes from the knowledge, integrity and care she shows for each of her clients who come to her to help them transform themselves. She honors all the gifts she has gotten from Romana, while she trained with her.  There is a trust I have about Elle that I cannot say I’ve felt with other Pilates instructors in the past. With Elle’s sunshiny smile she seems on the surface to be playful, creative and cheerful. She has a casual and welcoming manner. But once you are in her cross trainer class, you are fully focused, completely attuned to your body by her fresh and detailed-in the- moment- cues. She gets into the fine-tune elements of the practice of Pilates. I immediately recognized the elevated style of her training. It was completely different to what I was used to. Elle is focused on you and how you are moving and working your body, even when you are sharing the class with others. She listens to what you need in order to improve your body, by her instinctual assessment while you are moving in her class.

One of her students, a mom of two teenagers, who doesn’t miss a Tuesday morning Tower Mat class with Elle, said that not one of Elle’s classes are the same. This mother of two feels like she works harder each time she comes and says that she learns new and deeper ways of working her body. She feels great every time. She also has noticed her body’s transformation throughout the four years she’s been practicing with Elle.

I know from my experience yesterday that I went up a notch in my practice simply because Elle taught the class in a way that made me pay close attention to my body during each exercise. I could connect with that particular place in my body where I needed to strengthen and adjust, deepen, and I finally found a way of consistently correcting it. She helps you to strengthen your weakness and not over use and rely on the places where you are strong,

I have solid faith that I can be an authentic Pilates teacher as well. It’s about giving fully to your student, your client. But it’s also about fully knowing the greatness of the Pilates method and having the ability to transform yourself , your teaching and help others to transform themselves. Elle and her other teachers know this and are successfully transferring their knowledge onto me or should I say “into me”. It’s a gem of a studio. I am so thankful that I found Center For Movement.

Written by: Melanie L Danza, Center for Movement Pilates Apprentice