Mariska Barnard works at Pilates Rotterdam at Rijnhoutplein2, located in the centre of Rotterdam. Mariska is 35 years old and has been doing Pilates for 15 years. She got her training at Romana’s Pilates in New York.
How were you introduced to Pilates?
I worked as a dancer at the Scapino Ballet Rotterdam and the balletteacher advised me to start doing Pilates to improve my technique. I’d never heard of it before, but I wanted to try everything in order to be a better dancer. I was surprised about the change I felt in my body. My balance was improving, I was able to spin better and it was wonderful to feel the control I got over my muscles. I don’t think my balletbackground has something to do with Pilates, but I learned about Pilates because my teacher knew about it.
What made you decide to turn Pilates into your profession?
Not so much what, but who. After a year I started doing duo classes with Javier Velazquaz. He told me:”You’ll be a Pilates trainer one day.” I laughed at his face, it was something I wasn’t thinking of yet. But he said it to me again a few years later and even asked me to work for him when he would open his own studio. It was a rather unusual order to do things, because I’d never even taught before and I wasn’t sure I’d like it. From that moment on he took me under his wing and he made me feel and experience every part of Pilates. I stopped dancing a few years later and became a sport masseuse. I was still very focused on the human body. Because I had experienced first hand how Pilates had changed my body I wanted to pass my experiences on and I started to attend the Pilates Education. If it wasn’t for Javier constantly stimulating me to reach further I would probably still be a “Pilates customer”. It proved to be the perfect choice for me. While I was undergoing the Pilates education Javier opened his studio. When I was done I could almost immediately start working for him!
Can you describe the studio that you work at for us?
So, I work for Javier in this wonderful building in Rotterdam. We are on the first floor and we have an enormous round roof, so we have a lot of light and room in the studio. Javier made most of the apparatus himself, like the Cadillac, High Mat and Wall Units, to name a few. Most of the Reformers are made by Gratz.
What piece of Pilates apparatus is your favorite?
I don’t really have one favorite, because there is so much variation on all apparatus that I mostly leave the choiche up to what part of my body needs the most that day. If I feel like I need a challenge I would choose the Wunda Chair and if I just want a simple workout, I’ll choose the Reformer. I probably have trained on apparatus from other brands, but I wasn’t as aware then as I was now, so I can’t really judge about that. But to my feeling the equipment from Javier and Gratz come closest to Joseph’s designs, so I want to stick with those.
Do you feel it’s hard to get new clients and keep the ones you already have?
I actually don’t. People keep calling and unfortunately we don’t have room for everyone. Of course we’ve had quieter times, but as long as you keep communicating with your clients and offer alternatives for them, you can help each other.
Do you regularly participate in workshops?
Before I got pregnant I often went to workshops in Barcelona, Vienna and Chicago. Travelling is a bit harder now that I have a baby, but I’m fortunate because Javier teaches a workshop in Rotterdam every few months. And those are very educational. Every workshop I’ve done, leaves it’s own impression. I learn a lot every time. A little while ago Javier gave a workshop over the goals and spirit of Joseph Pilates. It gave me such a down-to-earth-look on the method and his intentions, that I only became more curious at how Joseph used to teach. We changed a lot over the years and not everything is bad, but we may have lost the essence of some of the exercises. By looking again through Josephs eyes (eye 😉 ), you understand how he meant things and sometimes the exercises start making more sense!
Have you solved any injuries or kept them under control with Pilates?
Thanks to Pilates I am completely free from injuries. Unfortunately, my body isn’t always set properly either, but thanks to this method it’s usually easy for me to find out what it wrong, fix the problem and keep my body in shape. During my pregnancy Pilates was a very big help. I loved to keep training and to understand and protect my body. I did less than the ‘basics’ but I did feel fit until the end and I was back in shape quickly after giving birth, thanks to Pilates!!!
Is there a specific group you teach?
I train everybody that is willing and able, no matter what age, injuries or background. I teach approximately 13 to 15 hours a week, and I prefer to train 1-on-1, because I like the personal attention better, and when there’s multiple people there you often can’t focus on a problem.
Who would you like to teach?
A professional footballplayer! It might sound strange, but just like dancers they’re working on their bodies all day long and they’re very in tune with their bodies. Because of all the media attention they’re put in a different spotlight, but I’m very curious about how the body of a footballer is build.
It’s often mostly women teaching Pilates, how do you experience this?
I don’t see a problem with that, that’s just the way it is. But I have to say, for male clients it would be nice if there were more men. They tend to understand the male body better than women do.
How do you see the future of Pilates?
Good, but I also have my doubts. I’m sure the method will remain, plenty of seeds have been planted and sprouted. But many lost sight of the way Joseph thought, the training will be good, but is it still what Joseph thought of all those years ago? People like Javier try to see what Joseph was about and they keep us sharp and concious. That’s why I feel this method, the way Joseph meant it, will remain and be passed on.
What is your vision concerning yourself when it comes to Pilates?
I feel that “old” isn’t bad and that what we were taught in the training was right too. That’s why I try to find balance in both. I’m not done learning yet and and there’s still so much left to discover.
What Pilatesexercise is your favorite and which one is your least favorite?
I don’t really have a favorite. There are multiple exercises that I like. It’s mostly the training as a whole that I like. I definitely have a least favorite, and that’s the Corkscrew! That one is soo….grrrr. The Teaser is dreadful at times, especially when my back is very rigid, but the Corkscrew is the worst by far!
What Pilatesword would you rather not use?
I use everything when I’m trying to make a point, I just don’t use it excessively. Things that do irritate me are ‘soft knees’ and I think it’s a shame that some are only focused on stomach! They forget that it’s about the whole body!
Have you changed things or would you like to?
No, never. I change things for my clients, but I never change the essence of an exercise.
What is the most important thing Pilates has given you?
It has made me aware of how we as humans act in life and how much it affects our bodies. Through circumstance you change as a person, and our body stores that information and changes with you.
What is your opinion regarding authentic/classical Pilates or contemporary Pilates, like Pilatesmethods that altered or even completely changed certain exercises?
There is no method that is wrong, but can you still call it Pilates? As long as we realize why things were changed it’s fine, the training will probably be okay. But my preference is with the original, because no matter how long ago it was developed, it still works!
Who is your rolemodel?
Actually my biggest rolemodel is Javier Velazquez. His passion to find out everything he can about the method is very inspiring and contagious. He shaped me as a client, trainer and a person. If he finds out something new (old) about Joseph, he lets me experience and discover if it works, and that journey is so much fun! I’d love to go back to New York, to the studio on 57th street and to see everyone I met there in 2005 again. I’ll go back one day!
What is the funniest thing you’ve ever encountered?
So much happens during the classes, but there’s one thing i’ll never forget, and that wasn’t in one of my classes. The teacher put the long box on the Reformer for the Horseback and told the client: “ok, and now the Horseback”, and instead of sitting down the client stood on top of the box….and he’d done this exercise many times before! Priceless!
Have you ever met one of the Elders?
Yes, I have been fortunate enough to have met Romana. She was such an inspriration. As soon as she entered a room the magic started. The passion she exuded when she taught and her way of looking at the human form was unique.
What is your favorite Joseph statement?
‘Body, Mind and Spirit’!! And ‘Pilates is movement’!! These keep coming back, because they’re so true!
Will you keep on practicing and teaching Pilates?
I’ll definitely keep training. I miss it so much if I don’t do it for a while, like when I’m on holiday. I’ll immediately feel I’m losing control over my body. And teaching, as long as I can keep helping and inspire people, I’ll keep this up for a long time to come.
What is your dream?
My dream regarding Pilates? That people are inspired by it, because there is so much to learn and discover about your own body, and that goes for clients and trainers!
3014 TZ Rotterdam