Natalie Hauser is the owner of Hauser Bayside Pilates studio in Miami Beach, Florida. To the best of Natalie’s knowledge the studio is the only STOTT Pilates studio on Miami Beach. They have group class Reformers, V2Max Plus Reformers, including a Rehab Reformer, the Cadillac, Stability Chairs, TRX, Barre, a Ladder Barrel, STOTT Tower Trainers, hard and trampoline jump boards, and more toys than one can imagine including Bosus, toning balls, flex bands, fitness circles and stability balls. Natalie says:”Pilates is as much mind as it is body.”
Natalie, how old are you and what is your background?
A lady never tells her age. 😉 I was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and grew up with my grandparents and my mom. I am an only child. I studied piano, gymnastics, tap, jazz, ballet, and swimming as a child. But dance was my first love. I have always felt happiest when in motion. I was a professional classical ballet dancer for about 15 years. I started my ballet training at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and later moved to NYC to train at the School of American Ballet. NYC is where I was introduced to Pilates upon the recommendation of a soloist dancer with American Ballet Theater who was coaching me privately. I had quite a flexible lower back, and it was hard for me to control it, so she recommended Robert Fitzgerald, one of the Pilates Elders. I trained with him for about 5-6 years. I moved to Miami Beach to dance with Miami City Ballet and there were no Pilates studios there for the first two years I was in the company. Pilates was not well-known or popular then, and many cities outside of NYC had limited exposure to Pilates.
Can you tell the readers something about yourself?
I danced in many ballet companies around the world. Miami City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders in Antwerp, Belgium, and Zurich Ballet to name a few. I lived in Europe for about 8 years. I stopped dancing because I was diagnosed with kidney disease/failure while living in Belgium. I moved back to NYC to be closer to my mom, and figure out what to do next.
From diagnosis to kidney transplant was about 8 years. For someone who had never had a cavity, needing an organ was pretty extreme. It was a life- changing but positive experience. You meet people along the way that cause you to pause and think. I have always been a reflective person, but also very Type A. While still Type A, the kidney disease did make me reassess my life. And basically it is why I am doing what I am today.
What made you decide to open your own studio?
I had outgrown the small space I was in, and wanted to be able to offer group classes. There was also no STOTT Pilates representation in the area after my previous boss moved his studio to Orlando a few years before. A friend of mine heard of a space I might be interested in and it turned out to be the perfect space! Hauser Bayside Pilates is located in the heart of an “exercise” area in South Beach. There is yoga, Flywheel and Flybarre, Barry’s Bootcamp, kickboxing, kayaking, a juice bar, bakery and various eclectic restaurants and boutique shops. There are also two popular food stores so there is a lot of foot traffic and other exercise modalities within a couple steps of one another. To be honest it just fell together and seemed right to expand and open a larger studio.
How long did you study Pilates?
I started Pilates at the age of 10 when there was only the original/Classical Method/Joe’s Pilates. My first teacher was Robert Fitzgerald on 79th Street and Amsterdam on the Upper West Side of NYC. I worked with him for about 5-6 years. I have practiced Pilates pretty consistently since then. I studied with a few other teachers in NYC. There were gaps in my Pilates training here and there due to the lack of a studio in the area.
I attend workshops every year and stay up to date with my STOTT Pilates continuing education credits. I appreciate the newer workshops (Zenga, Total Barre, Halo Trainer, to name a few) but find myself more interested in education aimed towards those with physical limitations, injures, illness, and aging. There is a “no flexion” STOTT Pilates workshop I will attend in NYC this spring. I have a lot of clients with spinal issues, and strengthening their core can be a challenge when they cannot do any upward flexion. New ideas and ways of approaching traditional Pilates exercises with clients who need modifications is always useful! Pilates has grown in popularity and the demand for pain relief and rehab is increasing rapidly.
What is your opinion about Traditional, Classical and Contemporary Pilates?
This will always be a heated topic. When I started Pilates only Joe’s Pilates existed. There was no other style. He had been gone about 13 years by then, but Pilates was not “known” as it is today. I am of the opinion that Joe would have changed some things, added, and questioned/modified exercises if he were still alive. This is an issue in the ballet world as well. George Balanchine died many years ago. But his ballets live on through those who danced them and were then put in charge of staging them around the world. Eventually the ballets will become removed from the original, and those who danced them and are staging them today will be gone from this world. There is only so much “chronicling and saving” we can do. Science, technology and people living longer has surely expanded the knowledge (and need for knowledge) of the body and movement since Joe was alive. It is good to be at least familiar with the original method, and to have practiced it if at all possible, books read and background of Pilates studied, and then contemporary Pilates applied as fitting to the method. Comprehensive anatomy knowledge is very important too! We have a much more diversified Pilates population than Joe could ever have even dreamed of.
Nowadays people call themselves a Pilates trainer after one weekend course or a Pilates workshop. What is your opinion about that?
It goes without saying that becoming a Pilates instructor in a day is ludicrous. Good luck Mate!
What Pilates apparatus is your favorite and why? Which Pilates apparatus is your least favorite? Do you prefer a certain brand?
Obviously since I have a STOTT studio all my equipment is STOTT. I won’t proclaim it to be the best, but appreciate it can be adjusted more easily for height than some brands. I learned Pilates and first trained on Joe’s equipment. I think the Stability Chair has a usefulness the other apparatuses do not. Many people are more aware of where they are in space when upright or in a standing or sitting position. Of course we have these positions on the Reformer, Cadillac and Ladder Barrel but the chair is in my opinion somewhat underused. But probably my favorite apparatuses are the Reformer and Cadillac because I feel they complement one another in a workout.
What Pilates exercise is your favorite and why? Which Pilates exercise is your least favorite?
I do not have just one favorite exercise. But I tend to do footwork, Short Spine, sit-up combo on the Cadillac and feet in the straps when there are a few moments between clients. I love core work so I always do abs. Anything with spinal extension is difficult for me, especially arms pulling straps on the long box. The issue is not lack of extension, but engaging the upper back muscles without falling into the lumbar spine. The back of my knees are very hyper- extended so I always need to focus on glut exercises. The hours of standing over clients each day, and answering emails and texts are not helping either. So while the exercises for my weak points are not as enjoyable, they are nonetheless necessary and my body reaps the benefits when I do them.
Do you teach more male or female clients?
While we still have more female than male clients, the gap is closing. Pilates has definitely grown more popular with men, especially those who have had an injury. Men who engage in a repetitive sport such as running, biking, tennis, and/or golf have discovered Pilates provides the necessary strengthening of their weaker, less-used muscles while lengthening and relieving stress in the muscles that are overused and tight. They achieve greater flexibility and injury prevention through regular Pilates practice.
How did Pilates change your life?
Pilates strengthened my back when I was a young student at School of American Ballet in NYC. I was also born with hip dysplasia, which was corrected with a bar between my legs as an infant, but not completely. I was never prone to injury but it gave me an awareness of my body that ballet alone could not. You learn your body’s weaknesses and strengths, and how to listen to your body when in pain. I am positive Pilates assisted in my relatively injury-free career as a ballet dancer.
When I was in graduate school, post-ballet career, I decided to take STOTT Pilates Mat and Reformer certification courses. I was extremely busy with graduate school, two jobs, internships and pre-kidney transplant so my life was filled with doctor’s appointments and changing medications. I needed something to create balance in my mind and body. I missed Pilates and thought maybe it would be the key to finding some “me’ time in my life, along with a way to make some money while in graduate school. The former happened and the latter did not.
I completed the STOTT Mat and Reformer training at Pilates on Fifth in NYC with Kimberly and Katherine Corp and their staff one summer and the following summer completed the Cadillac, Chair and Barrels workshop. I had my transplant during the Advanced Cadillac, Chair and Barrels training. It was funny actually. I had the transplant on Thursday August 12th, 2004 and the following weekend, Saturday August 21st, I arrived for the Advanced training with my stepfather’s kidney in my lower abdomen.
Two years passed before I used any of that training. I was in graduate school at Fordham University in NYC for counseling psychology, got married, and realized the city was making me crazy. You go through a lot when you have a medical issue like needing an organ!
I always equated Miami Beach with happiness; where I had danced with Miami City Ballet many years before. I found a STOTT Pilates studio willing to offer a newbie a job.
Matthew Comer, who owned Pilates South Beach, took a chance on me. I had the background but no teaching experience and his was an established studio. It took about 4-5 months for me to get a client base, but he gave me the mat classes immediately. I was the only instructor working around Christmas my first year and that was when my client base started to grow.
When he closed his studio and moved to another city, I opened in a small space, and kept most of my client base. Three years later I opened at my current location and we will have been open for three years this coming July 2015. It has been a crazy road, but it seems Pilates has been a big motivator throughout my life!
Who is your Pilates example (besides Joseph and Clara of course)?
Anyone in the Pilates field who can make me think and question. I am not a big believer in giving all power to one. The world is filled with great thinkers!
What would be your top 5 tips for Pilates students and/or newbies?
- Be patient. The breathing, combined with figuring out where you are in space can make it frustrating to know what to feel when you start. It will come and there will be an “ah ha” moment if not many.
- Stick with it. Aim for 2-3 sessions a week until you have a good foundation from which to base your Pilates knowledge. The more you experience Pilates the deeper you can go with your training.
- This is not your cardio workout. Though we can get your heart pumping, this is not the only exercise you should do to remain heart and body healthy.
- If you want visible physical results from Pilates please know that what you eat is as much a part of your body’s shape as your exercise program. You are with us for a couple of hours a week at best, so the lifestyle you lead outside of Pilates will play a huge role in your physical appearance. Follow a healthy diet, and exercise daily.
- Pilates will enhance all other activities you do in your life. If you run, you’ll run more efficiently and with less strain on your body. If you have job stress or health issues, Pilates will assist in addressing the areas you are holding tension and strengthen the areas that are too weak to keep you out of pain and injury. Think of Pilates as rehab/therapy for mind and body.
What is your main advise to the future trainers who want to be Pilates instructors?
Study. Be available. Be engaging, personable and professional, and practice good customer service. Follow up with clients you have lost contact with (or ask your boss to). Do courses and take classes, spend time in the studio watching other sessions, work out on your own (some of the best exercises come to me then) and most important…
You will notice I cannot say that enough. If you want to work, you have to go with your clients’ needs. After you have a client base you can look at your schedule and see about carving out some “me” time. We are a customer service industry and you have to be available to get booked! And make it fun!
Pilates transforms bodies (and minds). Can you explain how that works for you and your clients?
We live in a busy world with little “me” time. We are available 24/7 to the outside world thanks to social media and the internet. Pilates is as much mind as it is body. That inward focus on the breath, movement, and mastery of the exercise is what gives our mind an opportunity to turn off and focus on only ourselves. I tell my clients this is their time to focus on their breath, mastering the exercise, noting their improvement and learning about their body in motion and at rest. Pilates also allows a client to observe/feel how their everyday life is affecting their body. In Pilates we can break down many aches, pains, and points of tension and weakness and address them in a way that carries positively into their everyday life.
What makes a Pilates teacher a better Pilates teacher?
Awareness of the human psyche. I know this sounds metaphysical and unrelated, but so much of what we treat in our client’s bodies comes from their lifestyle and personality. Stress breeds acute and chronic pain, lack of exercise/weakness and less clear thinking, repetitive activities/muscles prone to injury and inflexibility. Knowing a little about your client and asking appropriate questions goes a long way into understanding how to work with them. I believe an instructor’s training is only part of their key to being a good Pilates instructor. You need to have good communication skills, be approachable, encouraging, and empathetic. And adding some humor never hurts! You are working with someone one on one who is dressed generally in revealing clothing, and often touching them places that can make them uncomfortable if not used appropriately. You need to not only know what you are teaching, but whom you are teaching.
I often hear that in gyms “Pilates” is taught without, for example, The Hundred or other original exercises. What do you think about that?
I have taken gym Pilates classes where the Hundred is taught and many people in the class should not be doing it. I am all for the method when applied appropriately, but if you glance around the class in these situations how many are going to be in pain tomorrow? Some will find the challenge reason enough to go again and again, and just as many will decide it’s too hard for them and never return. And half will wake up with lower back and neck pain that makes them question this whole Pilates thing. People forget that Pilates was never to be taught to a large group of people for the initial sessions. So I guess my answer is that if you are going to teach the Hundred in a large group class that may have people very new to Pilates, at least teach the modifications, head down, legs in tabletop versus extended, etc. Personally I would skip teaching it in a large group setting to such a mixed level class.
How many lessons do you teach each week? Is your focus more on private, duets, trio sessions, group classes or something else?
I teach roughly 40-50 sessions a week. We are busiest from November to May, but still have many clients through the summer months. We have a large mix of session types but mostly private sessions. We offer 2-3 group classes a day, and one on Sunday mornings. Privates are offered all day from 7/8am to 7/8pm. We have some regularly scheduled private groups of 3 and 4 clients and many duet sessions. I personally teach a mix daily.
What do you like the most about teaching Pilates? What do you dislike?
Probably the best part is seeing someone “get” it. You can see the muscles engage, their sense of mastery grow, and posture and strength improve. I like the challenge of working with clients who have special needs including physical, mental, and emotional or a combination. You have to throw out a lot of what you know, and start with what you have in front of you. I had a client with a moderate case of MS, and it was a great learning process for us both. I like the rehab side of Pilates. Her goal was to be less reliant on her cane and better manage stepping off a curb. My hope was to get her to feel her abdominal muscles again. We worked outside the studio as well, just finding ways to step off the curb in the real world.
Each time she got sick, she suffered an energy setback, but slowly we regained her progress. I don’t work with her anymore, but saw her about two years ago and she was walking with her dog and stepping off the curb fearlessly. It warmed my heart when she told me she credited me with helping her get to where she is now.
On the negative side of teaching Pilates, it is frustrating when someone just will not/cannot listen. You can cue, monitor, even hold their leg and nothing changes. I realize it is their time and money but I want to make sure they are getting out of it what I know they can! That said, they often continue with Pilates so they must feel they are benefiting. It is important to not assume progress is only what you can see. Mental and generalized well-being from Pilates are progress too.
Have you taught (or still teach) a famous person? May we know who that was/is and can you tell an anecdote something about him/her?
I have taught a number of famous people in addition to practicing Pilates alongside many famous people. My opinion is that it’s their business that they do Pilates, and they have enough people eyeing them in their everyday life. Their “secret(s)” are always safe with me!
What is your opinion about the future of Pilates and what is the biggest insight Pilates gave you?
When I started Pilates in 1982 it was a relative unknown outside of the elite that were in the “know.” Pilates was practiced by largely dancers, athletes, actors and actresses, and the few that knew of Pilates from others who were doing it. When I moved from NYC to Miami in the late 1980’s there was no Pilates to be found! Eventually Miami City Ballet’s executive director’s wife opened a studio across from the company‘s studio. Even then a lot of dancers didn’t know what it was. Exposure to Pilates outside the big cities was limited.
In the nearly 10 years I lived in Europe, it was slow to catch on. I missed it, as did my body. In the late 1990’s and especially 2000’s Pilates became a household name! I was amazed to see Pilates everywhere, in every city, and in magazines and on tv.
This is great news for Pilates instructors; there is work out there! People know what it is! Unfortunately like anything else that isn’t completely regulated, and is dependent on the instructor’s individual training and teaching style, there is good and bad Pilates. And some will think “bad” Pilates is good Pilates.
I feel the future of Pilates is solid. Joe would be impressed by the sheer fact that his name is everywhere.
As science grows so will the benefits of Pilates. We are in the midst of the biggest aging population ever and Pilates will continue to have its place with all populations. Many baby boomers have had little experience in their lifetime with exercise yet they are living longer than their parents. Living well has become almost expected and definitely sought by many.
The biggest threat to Pilates will be this very overexposure and regulating it so that the methodology is protected and preserved. This will take some work, and likely changes in licensing and companies that can certify.
How many times do you workout yourself? Please tell us more about your own practice.
I aim to work out every day. I walk to and from my studio each day, and love to walk everywhere. My years of living in NYC and Europe have made using my feet to get around my preferred mode of transportation.
I use the elliptical typically 4-6 days a week, for about 45 minutes. A good sweat and mindless activity after a long day of focusing on others does my mind good.
I practice Pilates on my own about 4 days a week, not always for as long as I would like. When possible I take group class with one of the studio’s instructors. I am always studying something new, and often have a DVD playing as I follow along. I need to have the movement in my body before teaching it to others.
Will you keep on practicing and teaching Pilates? What is your (Pilates) dream and your goal in life?
Pilates will always be a part of my life. I plan to continue to teach/practice and learn into my old age, though perhaps not as many hours a day as I do now! I am not much of a dreamer, and tend to let life, and new knowledge open doors and show me the way. But I think a studio that can run well on its own, without me there every day all day is a fair goal. Right now running a studio on my own is an all-consuming lifestyle. You have to be the “jack of all trades” managing teaching, staff, clients, bookings, payments, cleaning, replacing supplies, workshops, etc. While I love it, I do not imagine I can sustain the hours I have now in the long-term.
A dream would be to do Pilates wellness retreats in Mexico. It is my happy place, but I really need to learn Spanish better before attempting that! In my golden years I hope to teach some out of my home, and a few hours in the studio, but not as many hours as I currently sustain.
What is your favorite Pilates quote?
“Patience and Persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.” Joseph Pilates
“Sit-ups with a smile!” (me)
Do you follow a certain diet, like a plant-based diet or something else? If so, tells us more about it!
I follow a balanced diet that includes all foods in moderation. I do not follow a special diet of any kind. I had a kidney transplant 10 years ago, and while waiting for my transplant I had to follow a low protein diet, and eventually very low potassium, and phosphorus as well. Post-transplant I was informed of the necessity of eating a reasonable amount of animal protein and no extreme diets. By extreme diets I mean those that are restrictive (gluten-free, dairy-free, no animal protein, carb-free) and diets that disrupt the balance of vitamins and nutrients we get from a healthy diet, like overloading on proteins or only vegetables, or excessive vitamins.
Our bodies are meant to be fed with a balanced diet and I feel the equilibrium and ability of the body to remain stable is greatly compromised when diets are radically altered. Restriction only breeds malcontent and people find themselves eating more and lesser quality food because they have denied themselves the nutrition their body needs. Personally I love bacon and Cheetos (flaming hot and jalapeño cheddar)!!
Is there a Pilates book you like to recommend to our readers?
Joseph Pilates’ “Return to Life Through Contrology” is a must read for those interested in the true roots of Pilates. No matter the type of Pilates you practice or teach, I believe it is immensely important to know how Pilates came to be and the original version of Pilates exercises as created by Joe himself.
The studio of Natalie Hauser is located in the Sunset Harbor area of Miami Beach, otherwise known as SoBe. (South Beach).
Address:1860 West Ave ground floor, Miami Beach, FL 33139