Pilates Body Conditioning Techniques (cont.)

Moderator: How did you become a certified instructor?

Siler: Well, it didn't take much longer than about a month before I was ready to know everything there was to know, which of course will take me the rest of my life, which I love. I love that it's a never-ending process. I would be so bored if I learned it and then was done. Your body is ever changing and your mind is always coming up with new ways to work your body. About a month into my classes, I decided this is for me. And I didn't take the certification course to become a teacher. I took it because I was studying. That's what I am. I'm a student of Pilates. No matter how many books I write or how much I teach, I'm an everlasting student of Pilates and I love that idea. There is always a new challenge around the corner. The certification course is 600 hours under Romana Krymenoswka of intensive observation, training, and teaching. It took me six months to a year because I was working still. There are programs that tell you that you can learn this in a weekend, and that's so scary to me that people are out there teaching that.

sejordan_webmd: Brooke, I just read your article in Fit magazine. I would love to try Pilates at home on days that I cannot get to the gym. Would you recommend getting started on your own with the magazine how-to sections, or getting an instructor first?

Siler: If you are lucky enough to have a teacher in your area who's certified -- because those are the only people I can vouch for. I don't know the styles that other people teach. What I know is the course that I took -- and if you can find someone who's taken that course who is accessible to you, by all means, that is a beautiful way to begin Pilates and it's a nice thing to do for yourself. If you can't, I am not the biggest proponent of learning from a magazine. The positions are what a photo editor has chosen. And, it's a magazine. It's more glamorized. If at all possible, if you can't get to a teacher, you can buy the book, The Pilates Body from www.barnesandnoble.com.  It's also important to buy the book because you can't beat having a reference even if you have a teacher. The pictures in the magazine are selected because that magazine liked the look of the position. It's not based around the person's fitness level. In the book, that's why I chose not to be the model for the book because I wanted to be the one watching the positions. I was the teacher for the book.

Moderator: You mentioned that some people get certified in a weekend. Are they being trained properly?

Siler: No. I cannot imagine how it's possible to learn how to teach the number of different bodies that we see. In 600 hours, there are still people I see who need more learning and experience, and they won't pass their exam and continue. Even after certification, we go through 16 hours of continued training. I go once a week with my teacher Romana and her daughter. They are always teaching me new and wonderful things.

sejordan_webmd: Thanks for your candor. The positions shown in magazines look so easy, but I suppose I never thought about it from the photographer perspective.

Siler: Exactly.

Moderator: What makes Pilates different from all the new trends in fitness we see?

Siler: Certainly, primarily, Pilates has the history behind it. It has almost 100 years of research and development and honing the technique. Trends that come along, you tend to find out in about two years how bad they are for you and safety is key. You don't exercise to injure yourself, obviously. In fact, nothing in Pilates should ever be painful. But the difference also being that Pilates is not based around solely an aesthetic. It's a foundation of movement that is good for your body in every manner, shape and form, if it's taught and learned correctly.

Moderator: What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga?

Siler: It's a very good question. Pilates pulled from many different techniques and there are very similar movements in Pilates and Yoga. However, Yoga is a static form of movement and Pilates is based on fluidity, rhythm and movement, the reason being that we are naturally creatures that move. Our bodies are physiologically designed to move. Therefore, if we learn to "exercise" in motion in correct form and alignment, we are better able to move in life with correct form and alignment. There are many times, including sleeping, that you're moving. Many injuries occur, actually, in people's sleep. So, Pilates strengthens your joints so that you are resilient.

Moderator: When doing the Pilates exercise, what should one focus on?

Siler: You want your movements to initiate from your powerhouse, and the focus is on the movement and the feelings. How a movement feels is something that sounds very simple, but to be in touch with how something feels is different from how we're trained. So in Pilates you want to feel what muscles are moving and working.

Moderator: How do you go about finding a good instructor?

Siler: That's the legal question being contested now. The best way to find a teacher is that I can only vouch for people who have been certified in the same program I have been. To me, I can't understand how anyone would want to do it any other way. But if Joseph Pilates taught Romana and she's been teaching for 60 years, why you'd want to learn from anyone other than her or those coming in alignment from her is something I don't know. So you can find a list of those instructors in my book, The Pilates Body. The National Pilates Studio is also a good place to start, 1-800-4PILATE. They are the keepers of the master list of all of us who've been certified. And, there are about 500 of us now all over the world.

sejordan_webmd: What kind of shape were you in before you began Pilates?

Siler: I was about 25 pounds heavier than I am now. I was strong, but I was bulky. And, I wasn't at all toned. My muscles had no definition. Even for a tall, thin person, I was big. And I felt uncomfortable in my body, even though I worked out constantly. And Pilates helped shape and lengthen my muscles, and gave me a feeling of lightness and control which I like to synthesize into the word alacrity, which I've had a sense of alacrity since doing Pilates.