Brett Miller – founder of the weekly Pilates newsletter Pilates Intel- is 49 years young and started his professional life in the world of ballet, working with various companies in the US. Later on he moved to New York and branched out into modern along with the ballet. He moved to Finland in 1995 and then to Stockholm Sweden in 2002. He has an 18 year old son who will now start at Helsinki University. Brett became a Pilates instructor in 2005 and has been teaching ever since. Along with teaching Pilates, he also works on a consultant basis as a software developer.
When and why did you start practicing Pilates? Where did you receive your Pilates education(s)
The intelligent technique that Pilates is, and the chance to continue to be physical after finishing my dance career, attracted me to Pilates. I am Stott trained, and was trained in Stockholm, Sweden. I knew very little about Pilates at the time, and just went to the training because it was local. I do think the training was very good, and gave me a good start.
Do you take/host workshops?
I host 2 workshops each year in Stockholm, and have so far had Amit Younger and Kathy Corey as guest teachers. I also attended the PMA. I will soon attend the Pilates On Tour in London, and while there will take a lesson with Alan Herdman. Then I will also attend Mönchengladbach’s Pilates heritage. I plan to study with Deborah Lessen when I get a chance. So yes, I am very active about deepening my knowledge of Pilates.
What is your opinion about Traditional, Classical and Contemporary Pilates?
I do not know the difference between Traditional and Classical. I think that Classical Technique is a must to know, but I myself do not get stuck on doing just that. I am not a big fan of Classical equipment, too old fashioned and lacking in the ability to make adjustments. I think it is important to be open to variations and improvements. I generally do not agree with people who find that Pilates is perfect just as Joe made it, and that improvements or changes are not possible. That said, sometimes contemporary techniques simply go too far, and what they do has nothing to do with Pilates. Overall, I am a live and let live kind of guy and can see that no matter style people are choosing, it clearly has benefits as most of the time they look nicely fit.
Nowadays people call themselves a Pilates trainer after one weekend course or a Pilates workshop. What is your opinion about that?
It totally stinks….but often they have no idea that they are not really instructors…they have been told that they are and they simply believe it. It is sad, but the way of things….and all I can do is my best to teach quality Pilates to those that come to me.
What Pilates apparatus is your favorite and why? Which Pilates apparatus is your least favorite? Do you prefer a certain brand?
I have always used Stott, and I like Stott. Perhaps it is simply because I am used to it. My favorite equipment is a tie between the Reformer and the Cadillac….I especially like the variability in springs that Stott provides, (like other modern brands) and I think it is just poor design that Classical equipment does not offer this variation. I have written an article on this. My least favorite is the chair, but that is only some kind of mental block…..I always rediscover the chair and like it…and then I find myself avoiding it again.
What Pilates exercise is your favorite and why? Which Pilates exercise is your least favorite?
My favorite exercise is either the Roll Up, because it is so elegant and simple, and provides a great opportunity to work on the opposition on creates in the body when reaching forward with the arms at the same as lifting and pulling back in the lower abdomen. I also love the Short Spine on the Reformer, as it gives me a chance to work through my back and also to work on precision of movement and flow. Oh yeah, and I love the Snake, very challenging.
Why did you choose Pilates after your dance career?
After having danced for so many years and then leaving it, I missed doing something that required as much skill and attention to technique. Yoga filled in for awhile, and I still do yoga. But Pilates gave me the opportunity to work my body intelligently again, like in ballet, and included a community of people that loved to do the same, and even some who could help me deepen into the knowledge that Pilates has to offer. I am stronger than ever, and still enjoy the work tremendously.
Do you think that the perception of Pilates has changed to the people in the last 10 years?
At least to the people nearer to me, I believe that they more see Pilates as a lifelong study, or even an art form. Whereas before it was more considered to be an exercise form that is comparable to many others….there is a greater awareness that the serious study of Pilates requires a certain kind of love and commitment, and is something that can be very inspiring.
What would be your top 5 tips for Pilates students and/or newbies?
- Read ‘Return to Life’ so you can get a basic understanding what the original intent was. No need to treat it like a bible, unless you want to, but explore the origins.
- Come often to class, and choose a very good teacher that has the capacity to do more than just give a class and spout out phrases from his/her training, but has a gift to help you develop.
- Attend workshops with inspired teachers when available.
- Take responsibility for your progress. Be alert to understand that Pilates has much to offer, but it is you that has to do the work well, with a constant striving to understand more deeply, that will truly bring the great payoffs.
- Be easy and patient with yourself, there is much to learn and you are doing a great job.
What is your main advise to the future trainers who want to be Pilates instructors?
Put your own practice first, and always strive to learn more. Read RTL, for sure, but steer clear of the dogmatism that some people attach to it.
What do you tell people if they ask you what Pilates is? How does it differ from yoga for example?
I tell people that Pilates is similar to yoga with its attention detail and the complexity and depth that it has to offer. They both offer great beauty for the serious and sensitive. But Pilates requires a great understanding of the support from the center – or powerhouse, and how to work that support in all activity. That differs from yoga, which never addresses specifically that support, and even though there is talk about it within yoga at times, yoga is more passive stretching, and therefore has less ‘functional’. Pilates is also free of all spiritual talk, in yoga there is often spiritual type of talking, and more likely than not to be cheap and unintelligent.
How many lessons do you teach each week?
I have 3 ‘set’ classes each week. On top of that I may teach a few privates and substitute teach for others. At most 6 hours a week – which is ideal for me.
What do you like the most about teaching Pilates? What do you dislike?
I love educating people about the beauty of their bodies, and helping the to awaken to their ability to have greater control over their physical activity. I love watching them apply this in their daily lives and report how the quality of life has increased. I love the challenge of bringing a person into their bodies, to use it skillfully and artistically rather than just throwing it around. And I especially love to watch the student gain the sensitivity to see themselves in action, and make intelligent corrections on their own. I also love the appreciation that I receive for demonstrating to them a greater depth that they were not aware of before.
I dislike teaching insensitive and impatient people who simply don’t get it. At times, I dislike having to repeat myself so many times. While I do understand that repetition is part of learning, I do at times get bored with listening to myself repeat the same stuff over and over. (Which is why I teach only part time). I dislike (but accept) the fact that there are many unqualified teachers who use the word Pilates so loosely, with no respect or even a care for the origins – and that the general public is unaware.
What is your opinion about the future of Pilates and what is the biggest insight Pilates gave you?
I think that the future of Pilates is that it is going to get more away from the original teaching of Joe Pilates. The bad part of this for me is that the original vision of health and well being are lost and unappreciated, and Pilates becomes merely a word rather than the significant thing it can be. But yes, I believe it is going in that direction. The biggest insight Pilates gave to me was that the support of the center can be used all the time, not just in exercising…and if used wisely will help the body’s own process of organizing itself towards a greater harmony. A lack of support is stressful to the body, disrupting that natural tendency towards balance and harmony.
How many times do you workout yourself?
I do 2 full Pilates workouts per week, and sometimes more. One of those workouts is always mat, the activity that I find most important. The other will be on the apparatus, where I tend to use more the Cadillac and the Reformer. I have added to my Pilates the practice of handstands, and taking them over into a backbend, a move I ‘stole’ from Ashtanga Yoga, which I find challenging and beneficial.
I also practice Bikram Yoga 2-3 times each week. I think that the teachers are absolutely ignorant of any depth whatsoever, but I love the heat and the intense experience of the whole thing.
I also play tennis one time each week, with a trainer…I love that.
Will you keep on practicing and teaching Pilates? What is your (Pilates)dream and your goal in life?
I plan on teaching Pilates the rest of my life. I dream that I will retire early from my other job as a software developer, and start to travel around giving workshops. I never want to rely on Pilates for full financial support, but would like to have a little income from it, along with a lot of fun, in my later years. (I am now 50). I also hope that my inbox newsletter, Pilates Intel, continues to grow and establish itself even more than it is now. Both of these activities are a lot of fun.
What is your favorite Pilates quote?
And Schopenhaur’s ‘To neglect one’s body for any advantage in life is the greatest of follies’.