Discipline and commitment to your longevity — Like everything in life, discipline, and commitment for any activity you do pays off. Pilates won’t be beneficial unless you commit and stick to it!
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 Laura Wilson, CEO and Founder of Natural Pilates.
Laura Wilson is one of the most sought-after fitness experts in the country who specializes in Pilates. In 2005 she launched Natural Pilates with a studio in Beverly Hills and for 10 years grew her clientele, eventually expanding to additional locations in Brentwood (2017), West Hollywood (2019), Sherman Oaks (2022) and New York City (2022). The Natural Pilates training method is a form-focused athletic approach to classical Pilates that helps to increase strength, improve flexibility, and gain mindfulness. Reformer classes and private sessions are available at all locations and through Natural Pilates TV, classes can be accessed anytime, anywhere with over 250+ mat/reformer workouts for every fitness level.
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’?
Imoved to the US in 2002 from Romania with just $100 in my pocket. My first job was cleaning houses and hotel rooms. I then enrolled in a massage therapy program and started working at a physical therapy office, which is where I found my love for Pilates. I started my first studio in Beverly Hills in 2005, and built it up one client at a time, and expanded the space one room at the time. It was 750 sq feet at the start and now it’s a 3000 sq ft studio. I began hiring instructors and staff and we grew from there — now I have 5 studios, four in Los Angeles and 1 in NYC.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
In approximately 2017, my business was thriving and the studios were becoming very successful; I was working 12 hours a day and was so caught up into the day-to-day teaching that I lost track of the direction we were moving into. One of my top instructors that had worked at my studio for 10 years opened a studio less than 1 mile away, and wiped 20% off of my business. It really shook me up — it was very difficult to handle the emotional part of losing some of my very “loyal” clients. Looking back today, 5 years later, that was probably the best thing that happened to me because I regrouped and reorganized my whole process. It helped me to understand that we need to keep moving forward and keep improving what we do VS focusing on what others do or say. I learned that I need to do what I do best and shut off the noise. Finally, I learned that there is space for everyone to succeed in the fitness industry, and I am happy that I could inspire and influence instructors.
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?
1. Consistency — providing a top-quality product to build trust within your community. We have clients that have been with us from the opening of the studio.
2. Ability to change, adapt and find solutions — best example would be the pandemic. We closed on March 15 and on March 16 we had a full online schedule with live mat classes. In addition, we expanded our operations outdoors when it was safe to do so.
3. Flexibility — being patient, listening and resonating with different people, backgrounds and situations.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We just opened 2 new studios in the last month; one in Sherman Oaks, CA and the other in SoHo, NYC. Our studios have always been very community driven, so right now our main focus is spreading the word!
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 feel like I am a veteran in the business! I started in 2005 after practicing massage therapy for several years. Over the last 17 years, I developed my own approach and teacher training program. The Natural Pilates method is an athletic approach to a classical pilates repertoire, where our focus is appropriate challenges for each person. My goal is to push each person to their personal limit, create change without compromising their body.
Let’s start with a basic definition so that we are all on the same page. What exactly is Pilates?
If you ask other people you may get different definitions. In my experience Pilates is a form of strength training that helps you get stronger, increases flexibility and body awareness.
How is Pilates different from other movement modalities that you have practiced?
Due to the fact that the main form of resistance in Pilates is provided by the springs and gravity, there is a continuous push against that resistance. The springs will pull your body out of balance, so it is very important to learn how to stabilize those areas of the body while you move others. We offer modifications for clients that have injuries and can challenge others that are ready to improve their performance. It is all about understanding the body and the dynamics of the Pilates equipment.
On a personal level, what are the biggest benefits that you have gained from regular Pilates practice?
I am 41 now and I’ve been doing Pilates for over 17 years consistently. It started with understanding the method and building awareness through movement. It progressed into challenging my abilities to get as strong as I can. At this point in my practice, it’s all about maintaining my strength, balance, and flexibility with no injuries (especially as I have 2 young kids now). It’s also helped me look good and have great confidence!
Who do you think can most benefit from Pilates?
I honestly think it’s a practice for everyone. My 6 years old enjoys Pilates, and she does a lot of the mat Pilates exercises when she practices gymnastics or dance. It’s also a great exercise for teens because it helps them build their confidence in their body image and awareness. I have a lot of prenatal and postnatal clients that need help with core stability and pelvic floor dysfunctions. We also get referrals to help clients that are recovering from back, hip and foot surgeries. My oldest clients are over 100 and they still want to feel and look good. Our studios also trained notable names like Lebron James, Naomi Campbell and Sylvester Stallone. Pilates offers a wide range of modifications that can be applied based on the needs.
Pilates can sometimes be expensive. Can you share with our readers your perspectives on why Pilates is worth its costs?
Pilates is expensive because of its small intimate classes. In my class I like to connect with each client, correct their form, and advise on different cues to help them feel the exercise in the areas they are supposed to. I think the hands-on approach is one that you cannot get in a large class setting. Pilates is self-care and helps you improve your body image, confidence, makes you stronger and more flexible.
Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Ways That Pilates Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing”?
1.Pilates brings your mood up — When you exercise, your body produces happy hormones that help to reduce stress.
2,Movement is healing for the body and mind — After having my 2 children, I got diagnosed with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis). Some days I was in a lot of pain, but that didn’t stop me from moving. Some mornings I’d wake up with aches and pains, but 45 minutes of Pilates and movement really makes a difference in how I feel in my body and my mind. It’s definitely a positive outcome to your day.
3. Pilates improves strength and flexibility — It feels empowering when your body feels strong without restrictions. This allows me to feel happy and satisfied. You know you are stronger when you feel like you can do more.
4. Pilates improves awareness in the body but also helps us be mindful about our surroundings — People always say: “I have never felt that muscle before” or “I didn’t know I had muscles there!”. It’s important to feel and acknowledge every part of your body.
5. Discipline and commitment to your longevity — Like everything in life, discipline, and commitment for any activity you do pays off. Pilates won’t be beneficial unless you commit and stick to it!
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?
Precision improves quality of movement. When we perform an integrated exercise our body will compensate by using the strong and dominant muscles to perform the task. Over time, certain muscles will get stronger, but the weaker muscles will get weaker, leading to imbalances and injuries. It is important in your Pilates practice to focus on precision of movement and be specific on where you should feel the work so we can achieve symmetry in the body.
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. :-)
I know that in the fitness industry we are constantly trying to reinvent the wheel, but I think we should try to perfect what we already have available. If we get better at understanding body mechanics and muscle function, it will help us help people. I believe in breaking down the movements into basic (single joint) movements when aiming for results. We need to teach people how to isolate before they integrate. We have all the tools we need to create change. The challenge comes when deciding which ones to use and when. I stand for training hard, but not so hard where we create inflammation in the body. Every person is different and so we need to be better listeners to what they want/need. Let’s work with what we already have.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
Readers who want the full Natural Pilates experience can subscribe to my on-demand platform that offers Mat and Reformer workouts all taught by myself and other Natural Pilates instructors (everyone starts with one free week). We also offer various accredited workshops for Pilates instructors on the platform as well. www.naturalpilatestv.com. If you’re in LA or NY, come and check out one of our studios.
Our social media handles are also below:
Readers can also find information on all of my studios and teacher training programs at www.naturalpilates.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
Thank you for the amazing opportunity!
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.