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Pilates was invented around 100 years ago, and it is becoming an increasingly popular form of exercise. What exactly is Pilates? How is it different from other modalities like Yoga or Tai Chi? What are the benefits of Pilates? Who can most benefit from it? In this interview series, we are talking to Pilates professionals & practitioners who can talk about how Pilates can improve your health and wellbeing. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Amy McCall.
Amy McCall is a Pilates Instructor originally trained by First Generation Instructor, Carola Trier. Amy received additional training and Certification in Contemporary Pilates including Pilates for Special Populations and Conditions such as Osteoporosis, Scoliosis, Pre- and Post-Natal, Neurological and more. She is the founder and creator of amyjopilates, which makes and carries Pilates-based apparel and more for Pilates Enthusiasts, Lovers & Instructors.
Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Sure. I was a young aspiring dancer with a problem developing in my right ankle. At the age of 16 I saw a well-respected doctor who recommended surgery to see what was going on. This was at a time before MRIs and CT scans were in use which is a little hard to imagine now with all the technology we have today. A biopsy and minor surgery were performed. After I recovered, I continued dancing. Several years later, my ankle caused me pain and limitations. I returned to the same doctor and he referred me to a woman by the name of Carola Trier. He believed she could help me. I can’t recall if the doctor said the name or used the word “Pilates.” All I remember is that I was going to see this woman for help.
Soon thereafter, I met Ms. Trier in her NYC Studio on 58th Street. She told me to stop dancing and to see her three times a week and so I did. I studied with Carola for many months and never questioned anything. I grew stronger and saw my ankle pain go away. What I didn’t know at the time was that Carola was or would become known as what we call today a “first-generation Pilates Instructor” which means she was trained by Joseph Pilates, the creator of The Pilates Method. I would find out many years later that Carola was considered the first person to open a Pilates Studio with the blessing of Joseph Pilates himself. During my sessions with Carola, she would say things about Mr. Pilates, as she referred to him, so I knew or at least I sensed she knew him, but I was young and I was there to do the work, to do what Carola instructed me to do.
I loved Pilates and I felt stronger than ever, but I had to pay NYC rent. So I took an office job and soon came the end of my dance career as well as Pilates, at least at that time. I always wanted to go back to Pilates. I knew what Carola was teaching me was special, to say the least, and was unlike anything I had done before or thought I would do. I recall taking a private lesson or two here and there at a different studio but it wasn’t like it was with Carola. It would be many years before I returned to Pilates in a more serious way.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I’ve learned too many to list quickly so I will touch upon one that comes from possibly my first day, my first moments with Pilates. Carola had me do some moves that seemed somewhat basic, at least to a dancer, as well as others that were quite complex or weird! As a dancer, I was used to moving, using and working my body at 100% or more, but Carola had me moving FROM a whole new place. It changed everything in my mind, body and even how I knew life! I know that sounds crazy, but somehow in that moment I knew everything had changed.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Yes. I know this may sound corny or a little out there, but I want to share the benefits of Pilates with the world. I’m a person who may have been able to avoid surgery if I had done or was doing Pilates prior to surgery. There are many others out there that feel the same way. Many of them have become Pilates teachers, too. So I’ve created Pilates-based apparel for Pilates Practitioners or as I like to say, Pilates Instructors, Enthusiasts & Lovers. My hope is that my products will help teachers and clients take ownership of their Pilates practice so they can improve and get stronger while enjoying the ride to better health and a better life.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about Pilates. To begin, can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority on the topic of Pilates?
I studied with a first-generation Instructor and saw my body change from one with pain to one without. I’ve also trained in what is now commonly referred to as “Contemporary Pilates” and have training in Pilates for Special Populations such as those with Osteoporosis, Scoliosis, Neurological Disorders and more. I’m also somewhat of a Pilates historian. I enjoy reading about the man and The Method and I think knowing history is helpful. So I have a good sense of what the current state of affairs is on Pilates.
Let’s start with a basic definition so that we are all on the same page. What exactly is Pilates?
That’s a good question! Many people struggle explaining what Pilates is. I will go with this: Pilates is a method of exercise that helps to maintain, strengthen and in some cases rehabilitate bodies. It uses stretching, strengthening, precision and breathwork. It can be performed on a mat or using specialized apparatuses some of which have springs, pulleys and wheels. Pilates uses constant movement: there are no static poses as you may see in Yoga. I sometimes explain Pilates as being right smack in the middle between Yoga and Physical Therapy.
How is Pilates different from other movement modalities that you have practiced?
Pilates has an innate strengthening and rehabilitating aspect of movement that is like no other. It asks that a person work from the inside out as opposed to from the outside using only large muscle groups. Smaller and intrinsic muscles are required in order to do the movement properly and progress. As one advances, repetitions may be one to very few. Pilates requires a deep mind-body connection to do it well. Precision, breathwork and flow become key as one advances and becomes stronger.
On a personal level, what are the biggest benefits that you have gained from regular Pilates practice?
Years ago, it alleviated my chronic ankle pain. Now it keeps me physically and mentally strong. It has helped to prevent injuries that may have otherwise happened. It’s given me stamina, strength, good posture and the ability to walk miles, hike, climb 100 consecutive stairs, and more.
Who do you think can most benefit from Pilates?
Everyone. I know of several people who started when they were 85 years old and do very well.
Pilates can sometimes be expensive. Can you share with our readers your perspectives on why Pilates is worth its costs?
Pilates is like an apple: it can keep the doctor away. But an apple isn’t going to stop you from slouching or getting a crooked neck or spine from excessive cell phone usage. Pilates can. Pilates builds strength, helps to maintain proper form and posture and in doing so, it can help prevent injuries and can help rehabilitate. There is a mental and physical learning curve or investment, but like a good stock, Pilates pays off in the end while giving a good dividend. The difference between Pilates and the Stock Market is there is no volatility in Pilates and Pilates will improve your life.
Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Ways That Pilates Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing”?
In my own Pilates practice, I stress the importance of precision in Pilates. Based on your experiences and research, what are your thoughts about why precision is important in Pilates?
You are very right about precision. Essentially, it’s this: if you don’t work with precision, you will not advance or improve as well as you could or should. It’s no different than a pitcher on the mound, a batter at home plate or a tennis player serving at 100+ miles an hour. There is precision going on there. And when there’s not, whoops! A favorite saying of all, if not most, Pilates Instructors is: “Pilates is easy if you’re doing it wrong.” And another saying is: “Pilates gets harder the more you do it.” When you are working with precision, you start working better and deeper and that’s when the real improvement or magic comes. Sometimes I say to my clients: “do you want to work choppy and sloppy or neat and tidy today?” Why? Because I want them to take ownership of their Pilates practice.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Oh wow. I never even thought of that. Hmph. I think we need a movement to slow down. I don’t know anyone who can keep up with everything anymore. If we can’t do that, well, I’m a big fan of drum circles. I think we as people get caught up so much in our thoughts and it’s sometimes really hard to get out of them for one reason or another. With all that we have been through and are continuing to go through with Covid and its effects on our lives, my movement would be mandatory drum circles for everybody! Rhythm and flow are good for all of us and if you have ever tried to play in a drum circle, you know how hard yet, how powerful it is!
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
People can go to my website at www.amyjopilates.com and sign up for my newsletter (you’ll receive 15% off a purchase) or follow me on Instagram or Pinterest.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at [email protected]. To schedule a free consultation, click here.