Adam Murby, 42 years old, based in London, England and his business name is ‘Pilates & Yoga with Adam Murby’.
When and why did you start practicing Pilates?
I first encountered Pilates in 1995 when I was an undergraduate dance student at what is now Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance. I remember my ballet teacher at the time saying “We’re going to send you to the Pilates studio to toughen you up a bit!”. I loved it and with hindsight I can now see that the seed of my current career was planted then.
Where did you receive your Pilates education(s) and who was your teacher?
I did a high quality Pilates matwork training in 2004 at The Place (a well known dance institution in London). The course was certified by The Pilates Foundation, the first not-for-profit Pilates organization in the UK. The course was ran by three highly experienced teachers; Hana Jones and Susanne Lahusen (who began their respective trainings under Gordon Thompson in 1982) and Sonia Noonan (who trained in Pilates with Alan Herdman in 1977). Not only were we taught the matwork rep, we also had a great variety of guest lecturers who exposed us to a variety of other body-work modalities, including Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique and yoga. In 2012 I did my matwork training all over again with Body Control Pilates. I particularly liked working with Nathan Gardner on this course.
I am currently doing a Pilates Studio apprenticeship at one of London’s oldest and most reputable studios at Pilates Off The Square, under Dominique Jansen. I am also learning a great deal at the present time via studio sessions with Anoushka Boone, who I think is a masterful teacher. Better late than never to become a fully comprehensive teacher!
Do you participate in workshops on a regular basis?
I am fundamentally committed to continuing professional development. The most recent one I attended was ‘Classical Pilates Mat Class Inspired by the Pilates Elders and Movement Perspectives’ with Jennifer Stacey. It made me realize how much I still have to learn about the Pilates Method and was something the catalyst behind me choosing to apprenticeship now. Up to that point I was almost zealously into the freedom of the mat and not being dependent on equipment or a studio. Afterwards I knew I needed to be exposed to more classical ways of working.
One of the most inspiring people I have done workshops with is James D’Silva. I really love what he is doing with his Garuda Method. It is a wonderful dynamic blend of Pilates principles, combined with influences of yoga asana and the Gyrotonic system underscored with dance. I love this way of working and I think James’s work encapsulates how wonderful non-classical approaches can be which have roots in Pilates. I am a lover of both classical and contemporary approaches to somatic based practice. I refuse to believe in the binary mindset of Classical versus Contemporary. I personally find it too limiting.
What made you decide to make Pilates your profession?
To my great shame, I actually started my first Pilates training with quite a cynical reason. I was a successful dancer but, as any dancer will tell you, it isn’t easy to make a good living from it. I thought. ‘Mmmmm, this Pilates looks like an easy way to make some money in between dance jobs!!!’ That soon changed though. Virtually as soon as I started working with my body a whole process of change came upon me. That training changed everything on the level of body-mind. It really was transformative. It was then that I fell in love with the work.
Do you own a studio?
I teach out of various locations in London (that are not mine). I dream of owning my own studio, but it isn’t easy in London. I am going to keep working hard moving towards that goal. I have faith I’ll get there one day.
What Pilates apparatus or exercise is your favorite and why?
I have a soft spot for the feet in straps exercises on The Reformer. It was the first thing I did back in 1995 in the Pilates studio at dance school. To this day I still love it.
On the mat I like ‘Open Leg Rocker’. There’s a subtleness about it; timing it really well whilst doing the expending a minimum amount of effort. The first time I did it I nearly did a full backward roll out of the door because of my long levers!
What is your favourite brand of apparatus?
I haven’t been exposed enough to each manufacturer to make an informed comment about that. I did meet a representative of one of those manufacturers when I sat on the board of the Pilates Foundation as an elected Director. He/she was really keen to get their equipment in the PFs teacher training studios as she/he seemed to be of the opinion that what you train on as a student dictates what feels ‘right’ for the rest of your career. It felt slightly sinister, but I am sure there is some truth in it!
Do you experience difficulties keeping your clients in the current crisis?
I am told that a lot of the more upmarket studios in London have been facing some difficulty. I feel fortunate in this respect because of my almost total focus on matwork over the last 10 years. Matwork is much more accessible to people when times are difficult financially. I think it might be a good idea for some of my studio owning colleagues to get a space for teaching matwork too.
Did you start your own educational programe?
Not yet! But, I feel like I have a lot to give in future with regard to setting up a high quality Pilates matwork course.
What is your purpose in giving workshops?
I like to offer my clients a more in-depth learning experience than would normally possible in a regular Pilates class. I guess that’s kind of obvious though. I have a couple of ideas in the pipeline, which might even be rolled out online, which is an exciting thought for me.
Did you solve body issues or do you keep them under control with Pilates?
I think Pilates can help with ‘body issues’ only to a certain extent. Yes, it can make a person stronger and fitter and boost self esteem in that way, but I believe some body-issues also need addressing via the support of counseling or at the level of mind via a meditative practice alongside a physical practice. I know Pilates is often thought of as a mindful practice, but mindfulness based practice is only a small element of work that can be done at the level of mind. I LOVE Pilates, but I love the ‘technology’ of yoga more for creating profound life changes. And I’m not talking about asana (the physical limb of yoga).
Do you have a target audience?
No. I am proud of my ability to teach anyone. A sense of openness and authenticity is key to this.
How many lessons do you teach each week? Is your focus on private, duets, trio sessions or do you prefer to give mat classes?
Mat classes and mat based classes are my ‘bread and butter’. I have been doing mat exclusively for over 10 years. I teach 10 private group mat classes per week and about 3 private 1:2:1 sessions per week. I also teach a yoga class. I used to teach 3 yoga classes too, but something had to give, as I am studying for an MA in Yoga and Meditation Traditions.
I am also [finally] currently doing a studio apprenticeship, so perhaps my fixation on matwork is about to change!
Who is your favorite person that you would love to teach Pilates?
I am extremely fortunate to have already taught my number one fantasy client! It was an Oscar winning actor who I admire a very great deal indeed. The time we had together will always remain a career highlight, especially because we had such fun along the way.
If I could choose another fantasy client to teach it would be Jennifer Lawrence. I admire her work very much and I would love to work with her. I like working with actors.
In The Netherlands there are more female Pilates teachers than male. How is that in your country and more specific in your area?
Without doubt I have many more female clients than male clients, even though I attract more males than most to my class by virtue of being a male teacher myself. Occasionally I teach a class that is 50:50%. That’s pretty rare though outside of my own private groups.
What is your opinion about the future of Pilates?
I am very optimistic about the future of Pilates. Mr Pilates developed structured his philosophy and his method to help people thrive within the context of the ‘modern society’ of his day. I think the stresses we live under today might well be worse than back then; just in different ways. In my opinion, there has never been a greater need for his method and other forms of ‘physical culture’ than there is now. People also like complexity as well as simplicity. The Pilates method offers almost limitless progression, whilst bestowing a whole host of benefits along the way. The only downside, as I see it, could be a problem of access. I teach in an area of London, which might be described as ‘blue-collar’. Some of the people who look like they need Pilates most of all simply cannot afford to attend a studio (at London prices) each week. I think the solution to this is to get more quality matwork out there in our communities.
What is your own vision of Pilates?
It’s an interesting question. I guess it’s possible the a purist would say that our own individual versions of Pilates are kind of irrelevant and that we ought to just concentrate on delivering Joe’s own vision of Pilates. Whilst I think the source should be the bedrock of a teacher’s knowledge, my own version of delivering ‘Pilates’ (mainly matwork to date) draws on over twenty years of practicing and studying other movement modalities and systems of physical culture alongside the Pilates method. I think this can be done cohesively via the ‘gateway’ of Friedman’s and Eisen’s principles of Pilates. If I think a particular movement that is not strictly contained within the Pilates method may help one of my clients move better or become pain free, I’ll use it. A person-centered approach is one of my fundamentals. One of my earliest teachers, Hana Jones, had a mantra, which really struck a chord with me, “don’t teach the method [for it’s own sake], teach the person”. I guess it stuck!
Do you co-operate with other Pilates teachers?
In my local area I have reached out to two other local teachers and we have started working together. I think this strengthens and benefits all of us. I’d love to co-operate with more Pilates teachers too! It can be quite a nomadic existence, especially for those of us who have taught mostly matwork to date.
Now I am doing my, long overdue, studio apprenticeship; I’m finally spending more time with teachers on a daily basis. I’d like to connect with more teachers overseas too. The Pilates Contrology forum on Facebook has been quite inspiring in this sense. I have met a couple of visiting teachers in real life because of it, which is a great thing. That’s something that excites me.
Which Pilates word would you rather not use?
The word ‘Powerhouse’ really doesn’t work very well in British English or in British teaching contexts in my opinion. I think it comes across as so BIG and AMERICAN to British ears! If you are actually from the USA and find yourself teaching in the UK, it’s perfectly fine. Don’t change it! It just feels weird hearing it from indigenous mouths! I’m also not keen on ‘Pilates stance’ for some illogical reason! To my dancer’s brain it is a narrow 1st position or ‘anatomical pose’.
Did you change things about your teaching or would you like to?
I am thankful to the classical/authentic folk. They have made me look at what I have been teaching over the years and they have made me realize that there is depth to the classical work that I haven’t invested in as much as I could have. I see myself as an excellent teacher of contemporary/evolved work and I remain totally committed to that breadth of movement vocabulary. That won’t change, but alongside that I will be investing more time in future getting more conservative! I aspire to be an excellent teacher of both contemporary and classical.
What is the biggest insight Pilates gave you?
The biggest insight that Pilates bestowed on me is that the body is intrinsically linked with the mind. When I began practicing and studying Pilates a whole period of life transformation began, on and off the mat. It was the catalyst for a lot of positive change, even if it wasn’t all easy. I see my subsequent training in yoga as an extension of this. Yoga, and I’m not talking about asana – the physical postures that most people think of – here, offers methodologies that go way beyond simple ‘mindful movement’ practice. The whole journey began with Pilates though.
What is your opinion about the classical, authentic Pilates and the contemporary approach?
Mostly, I think, the whole classical v contemporary thing is a false binary, which I can find a little depressing at times. Why choose to identify with the ‘1’ or a ‘0’ when you can be equally versed in both?
That said I greatly respect those teachers who try and stick to the ‘authentic’ work as closely as possible. If it wasn’t for them, teachers with a contemporary bias might have a tendency to become too uprooted from the source material and water the method down a little too much. So I see the tension as ultimately healthy. I do think we need to be wary of the concept of ‘authenticity’ in general though. The pursuit of authenticity can give rise to mirages where we think there is water. It happens in the yoga world too. Sometimes we might think we are being ‘old style authentic’, when all we are really doing is acting out the conditioning that we pick up in today’s teacher trainings.
In sum, ‘Respect’ is the key word. We are one community at the end of the day. Let’s play nicely!
Who is your biggest example and who would you love to meet in the Pilates field?
My biggest inspiration is my long-term teacher, Susanne Lahusen. Her depth of knowledge in multiple fields of somatic based practice is a huge inspiration. I feel fortunate to have met her.
I’d love to visit a host of esteemed teachers in the USA to pick up their pearls of wisdom, which I am sure are numerous. I feel a trip to NYC coming on at some point! There are other locations too of course!
What is the funniest thing you have ever experienced with Pilates?
I was once teaching lateral spinal flexion with the intention of creating more space between the ribs to a large group of matwork students. I like to use metaphors when I teach, but this one went a little wrong and caused much hilarity. I asked the students to imagine their ribs as if they were spines on a handheld fan. So far so good, but when I asked them to breathe into the spaces ‘between the spines’ the words, ‘breathe into your fanny parts’ came out!!! Oh dear! It sounds bad enough in American English, but it’s even worse in British English! What a laugh we all had though!
Do you expect to keep on practicing Pilates and keep on giving classes?
I can’t imagine doing anything else!
What is your Pilates dream?
To open my own Pilates, yoga and movement studio. It won’t be easy with rent levels being what they are in London, but that’s the goal I am working towards
liz cranwell-ward says
wow , thats a great interview ,thank you so much for your carefull teaching .liz c ward
Adam Murby says
Thank you for your comment Liz! And thank you for coming along to my classes. Adam