Greg Youdan is a movement geek and passionate about Pilates! Greg (29 years old) is originally from Rochester, New York USA. Greg has always been an active person and participated in sports growing up. The Chair is like his own personal lie detector! 🙂 Enjoy this article and share! Want more articles from Greg? (Please comment and say yes!)
How did you get introduced to Pilates? Did your background have anything to do with it?
I have been dancing professionally in NYC and all over the world for the past 11 years. One of the companies that has really shaped my movement lens is Heidi Latsky Dance. It is a physically integrated NYC-based modern dance company. What I mean is that we use both able-bodied and disabled dancers. I am fascinated by the human body and a bit of movement geek and spend my free time researching anatomy, functional movement and other body conditions.
When and why did you start practicing Pilates? How did you get introduced to Pilates?
In 2004, I was first introduced to the Pilates Method at Hofstra University with Dyane Harvey-Salaam. All dance majors are required to attend one Pilates mat class a week. Of course I remember doing the mat work in a room full of dancers, but one of my most vivid memories is this African call and response Dyane used to get our concentration.
Teacher says: “Ago” (Can I have your attention?)
Students respond: “Ame” (Yes, you can have my attention.)
Any time our concentration (one of the Pilates principles) seemed to steer away from the exercise, she used it to draw our attention back to the exercise at hand. Although, this call and response was not a part of the Pilates method or training, it really made her stand out as a teacher in her ability to engage a room full of rowdy college students. Looking back, I really appreciate how she was able to command the large class and deepen our mind body connection.
Where did you receive your Pilates education(s) and who was/were your teacher(s)?
This is an interesting question for me. My training has been a bit of a hodgepodge. My original mat certification was through the Fitness Guru here in NYC. I then continued with an apprenticeship at Fran Lehen’s Groundfloor Exercise following the lineage of Carola Trier. In search of more training, I turned to Benjamin Degenhardt, a longtime friend who really helped mold me into the teacher I have become. Since then, I have continued to take several workshops and continuing education to really hone in on my teaching skills.
Do you participate in workshops on a regular basis? If yes, what was your latest? What workshop inspired you the most?
Being forever a student, workshops are a vital part of my Pilates training and education. The most recent workshop I attended was Breaking Down the Barrels Workshop with Bob Liekens. One of the most inspiring workshops I attended was an Upright Pilates workshop with Benjamin Degenhardt. He is consistently challenging my views and opinions of “the work” and always keeps me questioning the how and why behind what is that I teaching. To me, the “how and why” behind the work is more important than another variation.
What made you decide to make Pilates your profession?
Like many dancers, I was originally looking for a supplemental income to support my dance career. But then I just started falling in love with the beauty of the method and I couldn’t get enough. I watched how my body and my clients’ bodies were transformed and it quickly grew into my passion. I feel like I didn’t choose to make it my profession but it more or less chose me. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
What is your favorite brand of apparatus (Gratz, Peak Pilates,Balanced Body, Stott Pilates, Basi, Basil or other)?
Hands down my personal favorite is Gratz. It is the closest to the original reformer built by Joe. The work just “feels” right in my body. I love the drag of that last inch on a Gratz where you can really wring out the juice for every exercise. However, I teach on several different brands and think that you have the ability to teach proper movement skills on any brand of apparatus. It is something very personal to every person’s body and there is no right or wrong answer as it’s how it feels to you.
What Pilates Apparatus is your favorite and why?
I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the Wunda Chair. It is my favorite but also my most humbling piece of apparatus. It is like my own personal lie detector; it keeps me honest in my personal practice about any weakness or imbalance. I also just find many of the exercises invigorating.
What Pilates exercise is your favorite and why?
There are so many exercises to choose from. It’s very hard to narrow it down to just a single one. However, I do love Double Leg Stretch on the mat. I think it’s such a gem of an exercise and incorporates all of the Pilates principles. It also is such a great foundation for so many other exercises. It becomes your footwork, rolling like a ball, stomach massage just to name a few. I love it for its connection to the system.
Did you solve your own body issues or do you keep them under control with Pilates?
When I was a small child I had a metal-gated door come crashing down on my spine. It left me with an array of issues not limited to imbalances and misalignments. Pilates keeps me aligned and keeps me my body feeling great.
What do you think is a misconception about Pilates?
A lot of people don’t know that there was a Mr. Pilates who created this system. He was a genius whom deserves credit for the method he spent a lifetime working on. Along, the same lines many men think that Pilates is only for women or only for flexibility. They are not aware that it was created by a man, and is about strength and flexibility all at the same time.
How do you manage to workout in your busy schedule? How much do you train per week?
Currently, to continue to grow not as a teacher but as a practitioner, I have two standing semi-private appointments a week. Besides that, I make time for my own personal work-outs and group classes whenever I can. But, those two standing appointments are on the books and my schedule is blocked out around them to make sure that, if nothing else, I commit to at least those two hours a week. It is very important to keep the work active in your body because you can always keep investigating. It keeps my teaching fresh and honest and keeps my body in shape.
How many lessons do you teach each week?
Currently, I am teaching around 25 – 30 hours a week.
Is your focus more on privates, or duets- or trio-sessions or do you prefer to teach group classes?
I teach a blend of privates, duets, trios and group classes. I do teach more private sessions than group classes but I don’t particularly focus on one more than the other. I think they each require a slightly different skill set as a teacher.
In Europe there are more female Pilates trainers than male. How is that in your country and more specific in your area?
Yes, there are definitely more women teaching Pilates here in NYC, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a good number of men running around NYC teaching fantastic classes. Just because we are outnumbered doesn’t mean we aren’t there!
Which Pilates word you rather not use?
There isn’t necessarily a Pilates word I would rather not use, but I prefer to leave dance terminology out of the Pilates studio unless working specifically with a dancer. I don’t assume that my non-dancer clients need to know what the 5 positions of the feet are in ballet or that a beat is a changement. They just need to know how to move their bodies! I believe in speaking the language of my clients.
Which books/ videos would you recommend to your clients to learn more about Pilates and to workout at home?
I always recommend Alycea Ungaro’s Pilates Body in Motion. It really streamlines the mat work into an easy to understand and follow at home workout. It gives great tools to modify or advanced an exercise and is full of wonderful imagery. It is a book along with Return to Life I’m always coming back to for inspiration.
Did you change things about your teaching or would you like to?
Yes and yes. As students, teachers and people we are always evolving, learning and moving forward. I think it would be a great detriment to myself, my clients and the profession if we never changed things about the way that we are teaching or questioned the manner in which we are presenting them. I know that I am a much stronger teacher now than I was when I first started teaching and I expect to be an even better teacher 20 years from now.
Did you ever meet an “Elder” and if so, how was that for you?
I attended two workshops taught by Jay Grimes over one weekend. It was incredible and nerve-wracking all at the same time. To be honest, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I just saw that he was in town and had studied directly with Joe and thought I must go! I had very little exposure to Classical Pilates at least the apparatus work at that time but I threw myself in with a big desire to learn. I may not have known what I was doing but I was going to give it my all. I remember trying to just be a fly on the wall and pick up as much as I could without calling attention to the fact that I did not know anything when Brooke Siler said something to the effect of “You boy hop up on the reformer.” Of course it was to demonstrate Swakate of all exercises! It definitely took me out of my comfort zone and challenged me in so many ways. I left feeling invigorated and continued on my quest to dive deeper into the work.
Do you expect to keep on practicing Pilates and keep on giving classes?
How could I not! Pilates gives me energy and continues to inspire me on a daily basis. Pilates is a practice and it may feel different every day, which is part of what keeps it fresh and exciting—whether it be a new exercise or new variation or finally getting an exercise that has been challenging me in my own practice. My job isn’t just about teaching proper movement but it is about inspiring my clients to make their lives better through Pilates. To teach them that they can make and achieve their goals to take control of their lives and Return to Life. My clients’ hard work day in and day out continues to inspire me on a daily basis.
What is your Pilates dream?
My dream is the same as Joseph Pilates, that every person in the world should be practicing the method. Joe said “Contrology today will build our youth for tomorrow, this contributing to man’s supremacy on earth and ultimately to universal peace.” To build the youth for tomorrow and world peace. Is there a bigger dream?
People can find Greg all over New York City:
His private business is:
He also teach at both:
- Alycea Ungaro’s Real Pilates 177 Duane Street, New York, NY 10013, (www.realpilatesnyc.com), (212) 625 0777, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sixth Street Pilates, 525 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10009, (www.Sixthstreetny.com), (212) 677 5545, info@Sixthstreetny.com