Molly Niles Renshaw (40) teaches at Winsor Pilates in Santa Monica, California and on the website Pilatesology. You can also see what she is up to on her blog . Molly lives in Venice Beach with her husband and 18 month old son. (expecting 2nd child!)
Where did you receive your Pilates education(s) and who was your teacher?
I was a ballet dancer since age 6, so I heard about Pilates from a young age. I first saw pictures of it in a book called The Dancer’s Body Book by Allegra Kent. I was a dance major in college, so I took my first real Pilates mat class in my senior year from a visiting Pilates instructor in 1994. I suffered from Achilles tendonitis and even though I danced all day my core was weak. From that first class I knew Pilates was something that I should be doing for my body. When I moved to New York City in 1995 I continued with mat class and by 1997 I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I asked around and the consensus was to study at Drago’s Gym with Romana Kryzanowska and The Pilates Studio. I went up the Pilates Studio on 74th and Broadway to pick up information and an application and I learned I had to complete 40 or 50 prerequesite sessions before applying to the program. I had done tons of mat work, but had never been on the apparatus. There was a list of approved teachers so my first teacher was Roxanne Murata. In January 1999 I began my apprenticeship. We had to do six workshops, one a month on the Mat, Reformer, The Cadillac, The Chairs, The Barrels, and the System. Then complete 600 hours of training, observation, teaching and practice. My three teachers were Romana Kryzanowska, her daughter Sari Mejia Santo and Bob Liekens who taught at the Pilates Studio. It took me a year to complete and it was difficult and rigorous but also awesome. Then in 2007 I completed a 2nd certification with Bob Liekens at Power Pilates in New York.
What made you decide to make Pilates your profession?
I decided to make Pilates my profession, because I didn’t want to try to dance professionally anymore and I liked the idea of a healthy job. I was only 24 years old when I started teaching so I didn’t over think the decision.
Do you own a studio?
I am very lucky to work at a great Pilates studio here in Los Angeles, Winsor Pilates. I teach studio clients and I also rent space, so I can bring my own clients in. It’s a perfect situation for a working mother, because I get to teach but don’t have to deal with the headache of running a business!
Do you have a target audience and how many lessons do you give each week?
I teach clients with different issues from weight to back to knee problems. I’ve taught people with MS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. I also teach lots of healthy bodies too! On Pilatesology I think my target audience is pregnant women, new moms and teachers who teach people who are pregnant or postnatal. Since I’ve become a mom I only teach about 15 hours a week – a mix of private, semi-private (2-3 people) and mat class.
Do you experience difficulties keeping your clients because of the current crisis?
I have not had trouble keeping clients in this economy because a) I teach in an affluent neighborhood largely untouched by the financial crisis and b) I teach many of my friends and if they’re experiencing a money crunch they just join a semi-private session or mat class for much cheaper. I’ve worked with some of the same clients for 10 years!
What is your favorite brand of apparatus?
My favorite equipment hands down in Gratz. It’s the closest to Joseph Pilates’ original equipment. The measurements are correct and the springs are tight. I’ve worked on all sorts of equipment and I’ve found other brands are too big and loose. Gratz equipment will change your body. My favorite apparatus is the Wunda Chair. I love doing the whole session on it. It’s tough. You work your whole body and you have to think or you’ll fall off! My favorite exercise is “The Pull Up” because it’s so simple yet incorporates the whole body. You have to pull your shoulders down, pull your stomach in and up and squeeze your thighs together. I love it because you must use your powerhouse or it won’t happen.
Do you participate in workshops on a regular basis?
I participate in workshops as often as I can. The last one I did was with Cynthia Lochard from Australia. It was a review of all the main apparatuses as well as the lesser used ones like the baby chair, the neck stretcher, foot corrector and toe stretcher. It’s always good for me to review and be around other teachers to get re-inspired.
Do you teach workshops?
I’ve given workshops on various topics in the past but now I enjoy giving them online at Pilatesology. I love teaching workshops on the Chair and The Cadillac on topics of cueing and flow. I guess my specialty lately has been pre and postnatal Pilates.
What is your opinion and vision about the future of Pilates?
I hope the future of Pilates stays close to Joseph Pilates original work. His original order, exercises and apparatus. I hope it doesn’t stray off course and I believe that’s up to us, the teachers of his work, to stay on course. My vision of Pilates is basically to continue doing what I’m doing as long as I can. I hope to teach into my 80’s like Romana and to help people as well as myself stay lithe and healthy in body and mind.
Do you cooperate with other Pilatesinstructors?
Yes, I teach in a very busy studio with about eight other teachers so we must cooperate with each other! The way I was taught at Drago’s gym was to be considerate to other teachers and not to stay on any apparatus too long. For instance if a studio only has two Cadillacs but six teachers are teaching at once, it’s common sense and considerate to just stay on there for a few exercises then move along. Communication is key to a happy studio.
Which Pilates cue you rather not use?
I don’t like the words “squeeze” or “tuck”. I don’t think anything good or correct comes from these words. I prefer “engage” and “round”.
Did you change things about your teaching or would you like to?
My style of teaching is patient and flowing. When I was training I always loved flowing sessions and I think I’ve carried this into my own teaching. I love to just get a body moving. I’m not a nit-picker, picking apart every little thing. Nobody is perfect or will ever do an exercise exactly perfect so I focus on getting the client moving and flowing through the work as best as their body can. I never lose patience with a client if they’re not doing it right (as I see other teachers doing). I know most of the time people are doing the best they can and just the fact that they showed up is big. I definitely give corrections but I think movement is the most important part of Pilates, not verbal explanation. I guess I wish I had the patience to break down every single exercise and nit-pick until it was near perfect but I just can’t do it. Some teachers are brilliant at this – going very slow and breaking every little thing down but I just can’t do that.
What is the biggest insight Pilates gave you?
The biggest insight Pilates has given me is that I’m so lucky. I’m so lucky that I discovered it at such a young age and I get to teach and do it everyday. I know many people do Pilates and that’s great but I think EVERYBODY should do it. I feel like I have the secret to youth and longevity and I just feel lucky.
What is your opinion about the classical, authentic Pilates and the contemporary approach?
I’ve only trained in classical Pilates through Romana Kryzanowska, her daughter, Sari, Jay Grimes, Bob Liekens, Ton Voogt and Michael Fritzke. That’s all I know. I’ve only taught in classical studios. When I see other types of apparatus that don’t resemble Gratz or people teaching exercises I’ve never seen or heard of, they may be doing fine work but they shouldn’t call it Pilates. Joseph Pilates was a genius of the body who left behind a lot of material showing his work. We should just stick to that if we call ourselves Pilates teachers. If you’re teaching other “contemporary” stuff it would be better to call it something else. If I start making up my own genius method I’ll call it The Renshaw Method but until that happens I’ll just stick to authentic Pilates.
Who is your biggest example and who would you love to meet (again) in the Pilates field?
My first teacher, Romana Kryzanowska passed away in September and I would love to have spent more time learning from her. But of course I would’ve loved to have met Joseph Pilates himself! I would love to ask him what he thinks of all the hybrid forms of Pilates and can he believe that Pilates is a household name?!
Are you familiar with Pilates over the world e.g. Europe, Asia, Australia? If so, do you see familiarities ?
I’ve taught Pilates in the U.S. in California and New York. Abroad I’ve taught in London at NY Pilates London owned by Daphne Pena. From 2004-2010 I went there once a year for about 2 months as a guest teacher. It was great to meet new people and teach so far from home. Again, it was a classical studio so the other teachers were trained the same as me. I’ve also taken sessions in Paris at Philippe Taupin’s studio. I only seek out classical Pilates so that’s all I’ve seen in other countries. I know there’s a big Pilates community in Brazil, Spain, Korea, Australia and the Philippines, but I haven’t traveled to those places yet.
Did you ever meet an “Elder” and if so, how was that for you?
Yes, I was fortunate to study with Romana Kryzaknowska from 1998-2004 in New York City and every time she would come to Los Angeles after that for workshops. I’ve also taken workshops from Jay Grimes here in L.A. It’s amazing learning from people who worked directly with Joseph Pilates. I felt like I was getting a little bit of his essence. Here’s a blog post I wrote about Romana.
Do you have a favorite story about Joe or Clara or somebody else?
I like the story Jay Grimes tells about Clara Pilates. She was very calm and quiet. She would almost never give verbal corrections. She would just poke the area in question with her finger and say “This.” Also I’ve heard Joseph Pilates had quite a temper and would throw people out of his studio regularly and Clara would be the calm one to bring them back. I like all the stories of Joe’s zest for life – his love of food, drink, rigorous exercise and the outdoors. I wish I could’ve met him!
Have you written Pilates or made dvd’s?
I haven’t written any Pilates books but I’ve been in a bunch of videos. Mari Winsor’s videos for Gaiam and “Pilates on the Triad Ball” with Ton and Michael as well as the numerous videos on Pilatesology.
In Europe there are more female Pilates trainers than male. How is that in the USA and more specific in your area?
Where I teach it’s almost 50/50 male to female teachers but many more female clients. I always tell men that Joseph Pilates was a man who was an athlete and boxer and pretty macho. Pilates was first designed for men but somewhere along the way it became a female exercise regime. Not true! I try to debunk this theory all the time.
What is your Pilatesdream?
My Pilates dream is to continue to work with teachers I respect and admire and to continue learning. I will always take continuing education workshops to be re-inspired and keep the work fresh. My goal is to always keep learning and working to improve my body and teaching skills. One day I would like to have a home studio as well for my family and friends to use. My dream is to be able to continue doing this work throughout my life – through pregnancies and raising children, all the way to old age. I hope to teach Pilates into old age. As long as I can!