Updated: Jun 11, 2019
I have just returned from New York City - the birthplace and spiritual home of the Pilates method. It has been an amazing 2 weeks of discovery, questions, amazing workouts and inspiration. I traveled to NYC to work with Deborah Lessen and Blossom Leilani Crawford.
Both ladies are absolute powerhouses in the industry, and have pioneered many facets of the work, much to which we take advantage of today.
Who are these women, and why have I chosen to travel so far just to train with them? Well, read on, this is the first in a series of blogs about my time in NYC working with each of these formidable teachers. Make sure you read about Ms Lessen below to learn more about what she has done, and continues to do, for our industry
When I first stepped into Deborah's amazing loft in SoHo, I was first taken back by the New York-iness of the whole space. There are 5 meter high ceilings, exposed brick and original hardwood flooring. As you walk into the space, it becomes apparent that you are entering Deborah's home. The sound of beautiful classical music is playing softly in the background, and little Lola, Deborah's gorgeous white cat, gives you a once over and returns to her daily activities. We take off our shoes, and enter the space you see Deborah, and automatically she welcomes us with a great big bear hug and an "I'm so glad you are here"
Straight away we went to work on the equipment. "How can you immerse yourself in the method without first getting it into your body?" Deborah would say, and it so true.
We worked through Deborah's Cadillac workout to start with, it was such a different experience, mainly because Deborah has developed her own equipment, with those amazing springs! These springs are robust and ensure that you receive not only a strong workout, but also support through the exercises. Ms Lessen would start each client one or two at a time, usually on the half hour and constantly have a steady stream of clients coming through, working out on the equipment, going through their exercise routines, but not once did the studio space feel crowded or 'busy'
I found it unusual that there wasn't an influx of new clients on the hour during a changeover entering their classes, this is because of the seamless integration of the equipment and exercises lead by Deborah. You would go into the studio and complete your warm up. This could either consist on the Mat, or the Cadillac. There is a routine that is taught by Deborah, then she would sprinkle in variations and progressions as the sessions progressed. Following this, you would go to the Reformer, and complete the workout you have been taught, however there may be some Chair, High Barrel, more Matwork or Cadillac repertoire that you may be focusing on. I absolutely loved working out with Deborah, the specificity, the technique and Deborah's wonderful variations with some created by Carola Trier, directly from Mr Pilates himself!
Deborah then had us remain at the studio after our workouts and observe her teaching. I found this really beneficial. Just to hear some of Deborah's cues and to ask questions.
Ms Lessen was so generous with her time and her memories. We talked about her mentor Carola Trier, and her studio. This gave me valuable insight in to the way Pilates was taught, where certain variations came from, and the who's who of the industry straight from someone who had witnessed it with their own eyes. This type of first hand information is getting rarer and rarer to find as the years progress.
If you ever get the chance to study with any of the elders, or their second generation teachers, I would highly recommend you do. This opportunity is so valuable to enhance and enrich your Pilates knowledge and experience. It gives you an undercurrent of collective experiences that underpin teaching values and aids in forming your point of view.
Who is Deborah Lessen?
"Deborah Lessen, PMA®-CPT is an acknowledged leader in the Pilates field.
A former professional dancer and teacher, she was trained to teach the Pilates method by Joseph Pilates’ first protege, Carola Trier.
Now focusing on her first love, Deborah is a regular international presenter, conducting a roster of continuing education workshops and seminars for Pilates teachers.
Ms. Lessen founded the Greene Street Studio in 1983, which nurtures a broad base of clients in the Pilates method for general conditioning, performance specific training, injury prevention and post-rehabilitation. She offered on-site comprehensive teacher training from 1994 to 2004.
As co-defendant in the federal trademark infringement action for use of the name “Pilates,” she rallied the community to oppose the action. The Pilates name was made generic in a sweeping victory in November 1999. The victory party in New York City was the launch of the Pilates Method Alliance.
Ms. Lessen is a founding member and Immediate-Past President of the Pilates Method Alliance, serving on the Board of Directors since its inception. She was instrumental in the creation and implementation of the PMA Pilates Certification Exam, the only 3rd party credentialing exam for Pilates professionals, facilitating a broad spectrum of tenured Pilates teachers to work together toward a common goal. She is editor and a contributor to the PMA Pilates Certification Exam Study Guide."
Excerpt from Deborah Lessens website Deborah Lessen Pilates