Brooke Siler (45) from re:AB Pilates Studio, New York City started Pilates when she was 26 years old and opened my first studio when she was 27 years old.
How did you get in touch with Pilates? Did your background have anything to do with it?
I studied under Joe Pilates’ protogee Romana Kryzanowska at Drago’s Gymnasium in NYC for 10 years. I grew up in a very sporty household and was drawn to athletics. I was a swimmer, horse-back rider, voleyball and softball player. I was working in a gym and helping train people when I discovered Pilates – or it discovered me. I never intended to be a Pilates teacher. I simply wanted to learn everything I could about the method in my own body. I was drawn to the athleticism, intelligence and skill needed to perform and perfect Pilates.
Do you participate regularly in workshops?
I have to constantly feed my hunger for knowledge so I attend lots of continuing education workshops whenever I can. Besides Pilates I’ve studied nutrition, anatomy, kinesiology, fascia and even cadaver dissection. I marvel at the human body and all its many forms and functions, particularly which of these forms and functions we choose to employ and why. The psychology behind our individual bodies is a never-ending source of fascination and intrigue for me.
Can you describe your studio?
I have owned the reAB Pilates studio for the past 16 years. It’s located in NoHo in Manhattan, NY. We have a fully equipped studio with nearly 50 pieces of Gratz apparatus. I am an original Gratz fan. I grew up knowing Donald and Roberta Gratz and went to school with their children. I’ve tried most of the other brands of apparatus but I’ve never found any that change bodies for the better as quickly or efficiently as Gratz.
What Pilates apparatus or exercise is your favorite and why?
My body craves the footwork on the reformer. I love the feeling of length and strength I can achieve from the ground up and the movements are perfect for what my body needs.
Do you experience difficulties to keep your clients because of the crisis?
I’ve had some of the same clients for seventeen years and nothing would ever hinder them from coming, however we definitely saw an initial drop in numbers when the financial crisis began. More than people not coming at all, we saw a decrease in number of sessions taken per week, so the 3x a week client dropped to 1-2x week and that was a hard hit to the business.
Why did you start your own educational program?
I started my training program when my teacher Romana moved out of NYC and there were no other training programs where I thought my students would get the education they deserved.
What is your goal in giving workshops?
The goal of my workshops is to teach teachers how to see the body from the perspective of intelligent physiology – how does the body move and how can we deepen our clients’ experience of the work. I am also a fan of hands-on training and enjoy teaching teachers how to use their hands with confidence and efficiency.
Are you available for bookings in the Netherlands or Belgium? Can you tell us something about your conditions and the things you want to offer?
I am available for bookings however I limit my travel abroad due to having two young boys that are very sad when I am away. I teach all sorts of different workshops and have a list of suggested ones that I send when I am requested to teach. My preference is to teach in a fully equipped studio (so as to teach the system of Pilates) and also I prefer a studio with Gratz equipment but I recognize that many place in Europe and abroad don’t yet have Gratz so I do my best with what is available.
Did you solve body issues with Pilates or do you keep control of them with Pilates?
I have a connective tissue disorder that I truly believe Pilates has helped me keep in check. As well, I use the breath and cardio benefits of Pilates to help me stay in control of my asthma. I cannot think of another system better suited to the needs of my body.
Do you have a target audience? How many lessons do you give each week?
Anyone with an open-ended desire to learn. I teach as many sessions or classes a week as fits my family schedule. I used to teach a minimum of 40 sessions a week but since having my kids I limit my client teaching days and focus on the training program and working with the apprentices.
Who would you absolutely love to give a Pilates session and who would you never ever give a Pilates session to?
Would love to have Michelle & Barack Obama in a duet! Would never give a session to anyone notoriously evil or corrupt.
In Europe there are more female Pilates instructors than male. How is that in the States and more specific, in New York?
I think there are more female teachers than male here in New York, but there are still many more male teachers here than in many other places in the US.
What is your opinion about the future of Pilates?
I am always very optimistic about Pilates and now that many are working to get it into the school systems there’s a great possibility that it could become a national standard. That would be my dream. On a smaller scale, I’d just like to get more and more people doing ACTUAL Pilates and blow all the pseudo stuff out of the water!
Do you cooperate with other Pilates instructors? If yes, who?
I try to cooperate with as many as possible but my standards are very high and my tolerance relatively low, so perhaps I am more selective than I should be. I am close with Jay Grimes, Cary Regan, Kathryn Ross-Nash, Peter Fiasca, Mari Winsor and Dana Santi – to name but a few. We share information and keep each other laughing.
Which Pilates word you rather not use and what is your favorite Pilates word?
My favorite Pilates word is UP. It embodies the Pilates goal in 2 easy letters. My least favorite Pilates word is WRAP (as in “wrap your thighs”). I think it’s abused too often and not investigated enough.
Are there things that irritate you about Pilates?
I’m human so there are things that irritate me about everything!…but I don’t dwell on them. My biggest pet peeves in the Pilates community are ignorance and ego paired with lack of integrity.
Did you change things or would you like to? What is the biggest insight Pilates gave you?
I hope I am, and will be, a positive influence in Pilates. We change by example and I am doing my best to uphold what I believe. My parents always taught me that you can do anything you put your mind to, and Pilates came along and proved it!
What is your opinion about the classical, authentic Pilates and the contemporary approach?
I am still confused by what is what these days. There are some people who say they are classically taught who don’t seem to know very much about the system. And other than “neutral spine” I’m not sure what else it means to be a contemporary teacher. Overall I think that if you understand what Joe was saying and you follow the basic principles and philosophy he tried to impart, you’re on the right track!
Who is your biggest example and who would you love to meet (once again) in the Pilates field?
Romana Kryzanwoska! I would like to study with her all over again! I studied with Romana for 10 years starting in 1994 and would do it again in a heartbeat! She is the REAL DEAL and I consider myself one of the luckiest people alive to have had my time with her.
Are you familiar with Pilates over the world e.g. Europe, Asia, Australia? If so, do you see familiarities or maybe the opposite?
I think Pilates all depends on who you were trained by and who they were trained by and where your body interests lie. I have noticed many teachers from a country where one particular school of Pilates is dominant all working in a similar way because that’s all they know. Hopefully that will change as people get more and more educated.
If you are traveling abroad for Pilates, what would be the main reason?
I love to travel abroad to teach because there are many places where they have never experienced authentic Pilates the way Romana taught us. It is so rewarding to see people experience the work in their bodies and watch their minds open to learning more.
What is the funniest thing you ever experienced with Pilates?
Oh there are too many to recount, and not sure this is the absolute funniest but, one time I told a client to “squeeze their bottom” and instead of tightening their tush they reached around and literally squeezed their own bottom! It was an awkward moment!
Do you have a favorite story about Joe or Clara or somebody else?
I liked the stories of Joe throwing clients out of his studio when he was frustrated with them for talking or not working hard enough. I can think of a few times I wished I was Joe!
Do you expect to keep on practicing Pilates and keep on giving classes? What is your Pilates dream?
Until the day I die – which I hope means I will be doing this a for a long, long time to come! That authentic Pilates becomes nationally subsidized and offered as the standard of fitness in schools and out. Much like Asia has martial arts, it would be a dream to see Pilates become just a normal, everyday way of maintaining one’s health & wellness.
Facebook: Brooke Siler Pilates