What's New?

Combining Pilates & Yoga for Balance with Tom McCook

July / August 2004

Tom McCook's Pilates and Yoga DVD videoThere seem to be two camps of yoga practitioners in this country: the traditionalists, who like their practice straight up, and the innovators, who feel that tinkering with tradition isn't such a bad thing. One popular way of tinkering with yoga is to combine it with Pilates mat exercises. Tom McCook's new video is a prime example.

There's a short but informative introduction to the practice that covers four basic principles of breathing and movement. This is followed by a good 17-minute selection of Pilates mat exercises, most of them done supine on the floor (with a couple of concluding seated exercises): all the standard leg and spine stretches, sit-ups, and back-rolling you'd expect from this method. Finally, there's a well-sequenced 30-minute asana practice that includes a variety of backbends, Sun Salutation, standing poses, and a seated forward bend and twist.

McCook, a certified Pilates instructor and yoga teacher, is a competent instructor and an excellent model. This program is appropriate for experienced beginners and intermediate students who count themselves among the innovators and want to add some diversity to their everyday asana practice.

More details on Tom's DVD

The Pilates Phenomenon: Where do we go from here?

— by Mary Monroe
"Ten years ago, Pilates took the industry by storm; today, Pilates teachers and business owners answer one question: What happens next?"

This spring, CNBC reported that Pilates is the nation’s fastest-growing activity, with 8.6 million participants, up more than 450% since 2000, based on the most recent report from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (Rovell 2010). In reality, participation may have peaked mid-decade (American Sports Data Inc. reported 10.5 million participants in 2004), but clearly Pilates has staying power. The 2010 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Trends report (see page 22) found that Pilates continues to grow while several other mind-body formats are declining. The American College of Sports Medicine ranked Pilates in its top 10 trends for 2010, along with two close cousins, core training and functional fitness.

So far, Pilates has had quite a ride in the fitness industry, but it hasn’t been without bumps. As programming gets ever more creative, Pilates advocates have raised questions of safety, adequacy of training and method authenticity—and some experts ask whether Pilates and fitness really belong together, after all.

Two Worlds Collide

“In the ’80s, people thought Pilates was some kind of training for pilots,” laughs Kathy Corey, owner of West Coast Pilates, developer of the CORE Band™ and an active leader in the Pilates community for over 30 years. “I remember when I wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times on mind-body exercise, the editor asked me if I’d lost my mind—because nobody was going to want to read about that. But Pilates had fairly steady growth until around 2000, when it just exploded.”

The rapid growth this decade surprised Corey. “I never thought Pilates would become as mainstream as it has. I always thought it would be more accepted by a select group. But I think it’s so popular because it’s very versatile—there’s something in it for everyone—and because it makes people feel better. When you have something that makes people feel better, they’re going to come back.”

Nora St. John, education program director of Balanced Body® University, believes that the popularity of Pilates may also have to do with its long-term appeal. “I have clients who have been with me for 20 years. The fact that you can keep learning is very seductive to clients.”

An increasing focus on core training, integrative exercise, mind-body fitness and functional fitness has brought the universes of fitness and Pilates together, says St. John. “For a long time, Pilates offered one thing and fitness offered something else. Now the two worlds are coming together, especially at the more advanced level, such as in personal training. You see more fitness in Pilates studios and more Pilates in fitness clubs.”

Equipment usage is another area where Pilates professionals are seeing growth and overlap with the fitness world. “Instructors, fitness professionals and Pilates enthusiasts alike are showing interest in workout routines that incorporate a combination of large and small equipment, used at the same time,” says Lindsay G. Merrithew, president, chief executive officer and co-founder of STOTT PILATES®. “With a trend towards multifunctional, multipurpose Pilates equipment, it is clear that facility owners and at-home exercisers want to use their equipment in a number of ways, without limitations.”

Of course, there can be sparks when worlds collide. “The last 10 years Pilates has been on a very fast train,” says Michael King. He has been working with the Pilates technique for more than 27 years and is the founding director of the Pilates Institute in London. His Pilates programs are taught in at least 26 countries worldwide.

“The growth has been great, but there have also been challenges,” says King. “I think what has happened is similar to what happened to fitness in the 1980s. Fitness club owners used to be fitness enthusiasts themselves, but then clubs became corporate, and big business became part of all our lives. It used to be that people who had personal experience with Pilates ran studios. Today, Pilates is often big business, and we see the market dominated by equipment companies fighting with their own branding. It reminds me of the shoe companies in the early days. They created a platform for learning, but we had to remember that it isn’t the shoe that makes a great instructor—it’s knowledge and skill.”

Pure Principles, Plus Innovation

The thorniest philosophical area in Pilates continues to be the debate between “classical” and “contemporary” Pilates. Nearly every conversation is shadowed by the question “What would (founders) Joseph and Clara think about this?”

“It’s all interpretation of what we think Joseph Pilates would do, but no one really knows, because he’s [no longer with us],” says Ton Voogt. Voogt and his longtime collaborator, Michael Fritzke, worked with famed Romana Kryzanowska for over 10 years in New York City, where they were teacher trainers for her original international Pilates certification program. They co-own ZENIRGY LLC and created the revolutionary TRIADBALL™, two DVD lines and several Pilates certification programs.

“The reality is that when you talk to ‘first-generation’ teachers, such as Romana—the ones who worked directly with Joe and Clara—they all had such different experiences. That may be one reason we get a lot of different perspectives about what authentic Pilates is,” says Voogt.

Despite the fact that Voogt and Fritzke come from a generally “classical” background, they are strong believers in innovation. They point out that Pilates was initially created for military men as a fitness discipline before it became a favorite of dancers. “Pilates is actually a really good fit for fitness; it was never meant to be just for dancers or for rehabilitation. The beauty of Pilates is that it can be adapted. We’re in favor of evolving. Just don’t call it Pilates if it goes too far. Call it Pilates-based.”

Voogt and Fritzke note that the phrase “classical Pilates” sometimes implies rigidity or a lack of open-mindedness about the method. “You never heard that term 10 years ago, and I think it gets misconstrued,” says Fritzke. “Joseph Pilates himself said, ‘I teach for the body in front of me.’ He believed in adaptation for every client.”

St. John agrees, saying, “Joseph Pilates was a serious innovator, and he innovated until the end of his life. I think he would have wanted us to keep growing.”

While innovation is welcomed even among many Pilates “purists,” straying from the basic principles of the Pilates method is not. “If you’re not teaching the principles, it’s not Pilates,” says Kevin Bowen, education director at Peak Pilates® and co-founder of the Pilates Method Alliance®. “If you know the principles well, such as working with breath and [having] a commitment to working with the body as a whole, you can carry those principles into any setting.”

Corey adds that some diversity among teachers is inevitable, no matter how “pure” your approach. “We’re like a wheel, and at the hub we have Joseph and Clara. As teachers we come from our own backgrounds and experience to create the spokes. My mentor, Kathy Grant, who worked with Joseph Pilates, told me that even if you try to teach an exercise exactly as your teacher did, with the exact breathwork and repetitions, you won’t be able to do it, because as soon as you do the exercise, it becomes your own.”

More Mind-Body Focus

Is it “real” Pilates if it’s in the gym? Some experts believe that the true mind-body essence of Pilates is simply not suited to the noisy, distracting club environment, especially in group settings. However, many believe that the determining factor is not location, but quality of instruction.

“Consumers may not have a good experience in Pilates if they don’t feel the muscle work and they completely miss the mind-body connection. They can go through the exercises like robots,” says Leslee Bender, founder of The Pilates Coach and the Bender Method. She has certi?ed thousands of Pilates trainers internationally and has produced over 25 DVDs. “Stellar instructors will have you feel everything. That comes with practice and with passion.”

Tom McCook, founder of Center of Balance, a personal trainer and a nationally recognized ?tness and movement specialist, focuses on the mind-body connection and incorporates the Franklin Method®, meditation and life coaching along with Pilates in his studio. “I think the mind-body perspective needs to be emphasized for clients, so they pay attention to the movement, center before they begin the exercise, and get the most out of what they’re about to do. Without the mind-body connection, clients can miss the maximum benefit of Pilates.”

More Comprehensive Education

Most instructors agree on two ideas: inadequate instructor training is one of the scariest issues in Pilates today, and more comprehensive education is the direction of the future.

“I think today more teachers are integrating anatomy into their training,” says McCook. “They’re spending more time on education. You have to put the hours in if you want to become a competent teacher. I tell teachers to be realistic and consider that education will take years rather than months.”

Reservations abound for “weekend trainings,” which don’t allow enough time to develop competency. However, weekend modules can provide a practical, affordable format for ongoing training.

St. John explains that modular weekend trainings are typically meant to be part of a total program of training. “We tell our teachers that you’re going to need to put in a lot of hours. We are constantly developing new education programs because we believe so strongly in the importance of comprehensive, high-quality education. Right now there’s a huge range of skill level out there, and when education is on the low end, it’s always a disaster. It can be unsafe and create negative experiences for clients. It’s the opposite of what you want to have.”

St. John and other teachers note that a shakedown of sorts may already be in progress. Unqualified teachers and studios are struggling in a challenging economy; increasingly sophisticated clients know the difference between a good instructor and a poor one.

“The marketplace does work,” says St. John. “If you care more about making money than quality, you won’t do well.”

Says Bowen, “At first it was hard to sell clubs on the idea that you need well-trained Pilates instructors, but that’s changing. There is more understanding that quality programming and instruction pay off with long-term results and profit.”

Bender is an outspoken advocate for safety and in-depth education. “Injuries are a serious concern. Many Baby Boomers can’t do the movements that are being asked of them in some of these classes. They could work up to them with careful, progressive training, but they’re not getting that in a big mat class. Teachers need to understand the biomechanics of human movement and the basics of functional fitness.”

Bender adds, “I’m not saying throw out current exercises, but evaluate them. There can be detrimental effects to the lumbar spine from [doing] flexion exercises for an extended period of time on a flat surface. We need instructors who think critically, teach rather than perform and make sure the exercise fits the client, rather than the other way around.”

More Group & Fusion Programming

Group Pilates programs, especially group equipment classes, undoubtedly cause the greatest quality and safety concerns. Some instructors feel that group sessions are simply a bad idea; others believe they hold great potential for offering Pilates benefits to a broader range of people. “The industry had to become creative to address the economy, but quality instruction is critical to safety and success in the group setting,” says Bowen.

Group, small-group and fee-based personal training in Pilates are all finding their way into the diverse fitness arena. “Large gyms, studios and community centers have been offering Pilates mat work classes for a very long time, but many found that reformer and Stability Chair™ classes were more successful as a fee-based personal training program,” says Merrithew. “Owners designate a space in their facility exclusively for private, semiprivate and small-group Pilates trainings so that fee-based exercise does not interfere with group exercise programs.”

Another growing trend is fusion exercise, which merges Pilates with other disciplines. STOTT PILATES has produced a series of DVDs titled Pilates-Infused™ Yoga, which teach a unique hybrid of yoga-specific poses while also considering the STOTT PILATES principles. Pilates is being combined with sport-specific programming and plyometric exercises as well.

One of the most creative examples of fusion in the industry may well be the combination of Pilates and indoor cycling created when Mad Dogg Athletics Inc., which developed the Spinning® program, acquired Peak Pilates last year.

“I know there’s a lot of rumors floating around about where this will lead,” says Bowen. “This is the first time integrated fitness has come together this way in the industry. The truth is that there’s a great synergy. It’s given us a chance to tap into new markets, such as places that offer Spinning but not Pilates. The interest from the Spinning community has been great, and we’re teaching Pilates fundamentals to Spinning instructors so they can become better teachers from a more holistic approach.”

Exploring New Markets

The versatility of Pilates may be its best asset for the future. Experts believe that a number of markets have yet to be fully developed, including men, older adults and teens.

STOTT PILATES has created “Specialty Tracks” to educate instructors on working with postrehab patients, athletes, the active-aging population, teens and pre/postnatal women. Reaching out to new markets can also spur innovation. In creating programming specific to rehab and postrehab clients, STOTT PILATES has developed reformers that are higher off the ground (for easier mounts and dismounts) and allow for a greater range of functional movement.

More specialization of skills is also anticipated. “Now we have Pilates in hospitals; physical therapy clinics; spas; football, rugby and tennis clubs; [and] many golf clubs,” notes King. “Pilates will become much more specialized.”

More Creative Equipment (Big and Small)

While some instructors prefer a simpler approach, the growing influence of equipment is clear. Apart from the rising popularity of working with large and small equipment at the same time, says Merrithew, there is increasing interest in offering Pilates circuit training, in which groups navigate through the studio, using all equipment options available.

“The most sought-after equipment is durable, multifunctional and fit for small spaces,” he adds. “Many health club facilities looking to break into the Pilates market cannot dedicate one room solely for Pilates exercise. But facilities can increase nondues revenue [by providing] equipment that can be stacked or rolled away when not in use.”

Creativity has also flourished in the development and use of small props. “I believe in different strokes for different folks,” says Pilates teacher and presenter Norma Shechtman, MEd, MA. “Sometimes one piece of equipment will help one person really feel the exercise, while another person needs a different type of equipment. Pilates is highly individual. I like to use everything—bands, foam rollers, magic circles, the little balls, the BOSU® Balance Trainer, tennis balls, tubing, gliders. I call it ‘Pilates With Toys.’”

Moving Into the Medical Arena

The blockbuster trend in Pilates is the move toward applications in rehabilitation, physical therapy and other medical areas. Pilates is being prescribed by doctors, and reformers are showing up in physical therapists’ offices. For physical therapists who invest in training, Pilates can present an alternative income stream with far less paperwork. For Pilates instructors, the medical community is a growing source of referrals.

“In the medical arena, Pilates has been amazingly successful,” says St. John. “Physical therapists who adopt it love the simplicity and flexibility. Therapists are often limited in the number of times they can see patients and are often restricted to treatments that address isolated parts of the body, while Pilates moves the body as a whole.”

“This is our next great area to explore,” says Corey, who works with physicians and explains the benefits of Pilates for treating arthritis, scoliosis and aging-related conditions. In a program sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Merck, Corey creates “Pilates prescription pads” that physicians can pass on to physical therapists; then she meets with the therapists and the Pilates instructors. “We’re creating a circle of events to link the patient, physician, therapist and instructor.”

The medical trend will also be a catalyst for increased professional standardization in the Pilates community. Says King, “I believe that just as with osteopathy and the chiropractic field, we will see Pilates instructors become more regulated, respected professionals, which will open the door to insurance coverage and raise the quality of practice to new levels.”

More Unity (With Diversity)

Can everybody just get along in the diverse Pilates community? Yes, say experts who see more unity than conflict in the future. “We all have one thing in common—a focus on how to help the client,” says St. John. “At Balanced Body, we want to support different programs and partner with other teacher trainers. We believe there are lots of ways to learn and teach Pilates. The big picture is what’s important.”

Says Bowen, “Sure, everyone can co-exist. We believe in quality education, above all, because you can have the best equipment in the world, but you need the quality of instruction to go with it.”

Fritzke and Voogt believe there is actually much less polarization than there once was in the Pilates community. “I think people are starting to have more respect for each other. Pilates grew so fast that there was a lot of scrambling among companies to prove themselves, but now people are becoming more comfortable with the diversity that exists.”

Pilates has been more fractious in the United States than abroad, say Fritzke and Voogt. “The history of Pilates is American, and maybe that has made us more sensitive here.”

Although the questions of certification and standardization in Pilates are still hotly debated in the United States, King notes that Pilates is government-regulated in a number of countries around the world. “When we provide training in these countries, we answer to external verifiers who make sure we maintain standards,” he says. “In Spain and the United Kingdom, we now have degree courses in Pilates offered at universities. I think this takes us in a positive direction and moves Pilates into new areas of recognition.”

“Bringing the community together is an ongoing challenge. “We have a ways to go, but the direction is toward unifying rather than judging,” say Fritzke and Voogt. “The question isn’t about what’s right or wrong, but what works best for the client.”

Corey sees greater community in the future, as well. “It’s like ice cream. Pilates would be boring if we were all the same flavor. The more styles you learn, the more people you can reach. This is about integration of mind, body and spirit—and it shouldn’t be a mean spirit. It should be the spirit of unity.”

SIDEBAR: Continuing Economic Fallout?

Pilates experts agree that economic factors will continue to play a role in the future. “The economy has affected everyone from the largest to the smallest business,” says Kevin Bowen, education director at Peak Pilates and co-founder of the Pilates Method Alliance. “We may see more Pilates in health clubs and fewer smaller studios, but people aren’t going to stop doing Pilates. We just aren’t going to see the growth rate we had for a while, with new studios opening just blocks from each other.” Overall, Pilates has held its own in a challenging economy. “We’re currently very busy,” says Tom McCook, founder of Center of Balance, a personal trainer and a nationally recognized ?tness and movement specialist. “The only thing we’ve noticed is that some of the mat classes have gotten bigger because it’s an economical way to experience Pilates. We’re in the heart of Silicon Valley. There has been some drop in income in our area, but most people don’t want to let go of what makes them feel good.” The recession has driven the growth of group classes and training sessions. “When we started our Pilates studio, the trend was just personal training; now it’s back to group,” say Katherine and Kimberly Corp, who own and operate Pilates on Fifth, in midtown Manhattan, and who founded the Pilates Academy International. “Our best year was in 2008, but then revenue decreased about 35% in 3 months. We diversified to rebound, with more group mat classes, group reformer classes, Gyrotonic® exercise classes, a ballet bar workout and other programs. Group programs brought a huge influx of clients. We also started renting out space to physical therapists, who refer patients to us.”

SIDEBAR: Pilates as Cross-Training

Experts believe Pilates is likely to become increasingly popular as a cross-training tool. “We see more athletes, performers and weekend warriors looking for Pilates as a cross-training method to complement their other fitness activities,” say Katherine and Kimberly Corp, who own and operate Pilates on Fifth, in midtown Manhattan, and who founded the Pilates Academy International. “People like that we offer a wide variety of activities at our studio, not just Pilates. No one method ‘does it all.’ Pilates is a major piece of the fitness puzzle, but it’s not the whole puzzle.” Enormous public interest in Pilates may initially have created unrealistic expectations, says Michael King, who has been working with the Pilates technique for more than 27 years and is the founding director of the Pilates Institute in London. “We have to give credit to the media for all the great coverage of Pilates, but there have also been times when I have questioned the validity of extreme claims about weight loss or cardiovascular benefits. As a fitness professional, I know lying down is not the best way to raise the heart rate—we have better, more effective fitness methods for that.”

Yoga-Pilates Fusion: The State of the Union

— by Kelly McGonigal, PhD

When Pilates and yoga first hit mainstream fitness over a decade ago, instructors enthusiastically fused these traditional methods with everything from kickboxing to weight lifting, disco and rollerblading. While many of these fads have fizzled, the fusion of Pilates and yoga remains a popular combination. IDEA spoke with several leaders in the field to find out how the yoga-Pilates format has matured since the hundred was first introduced to downward-facing dog.

Find Your Focus

Yoga-Pilates Fusion, Fitness Journal Feb 2010According to Valentin, a master faculty member for Balanced Body® University and owner of Pilates Body by Valentin in Dublin, California, “Many program managers welcome fusion classes to increase the numbers of attendees in class. It is a great way to introduce another discipline to new members.”

Casting a wide net means you attract participants who might otherwise be intimidated or uninterested in a traditional format—but it also means pulling in a wide range of expectations. Shirley Archer, JD, MA, author of Pilates Fusion: Well-Being for Body, Mind, and Spirit (Chronicle Books 2004), says that managing expectations is one of the biggest challenges of a fusion format. “People may be drawn to Pilates for its [reputed ability] to create a dancer’s body. Others may be drawn to yoga for its reputation for relaxation and think it’s a gentle workout.”

The reality of the class may surprise or disappoint participants with high expectations or a limited understanding of the two disciplines. This can lead to tension in the classroom and poor retention rates. Valentin admits, “I have had yoga students walk out of a class feeling that it was not what they wanted.”

Tom McCook, founder and director of Center of Balance in Mountain View, California, recommends explaining the benefits of each movement to help keep everyone from athletes to office workers interested and invested in the exercises. “Tell them how and why. Get their attention, and have them see the value of what you’re teaching at each stage of the class. Tell them how it will help them use their bodies in an efficient way, or how it will help lower-back and neck pain. Get them to buy into it.”

All of the instructors agreed that a successful program begins with a clear identification of the class’s target audience, focus and benefits. Linda (Freeman) Webster, wellness supervisor for Aurora BayCare Sports Medicine and owner and director of Guru Fitness®, both in Green Bay, Wisconsin, says, “The only way to sell a fusion class to a program director is to have a well-thought-out class design. Be able to define the intention of the class and the atmosphere you want to create; be able to demonstrate it to the director; be able to train other instructors on the format; and give a class description that truly tells the student what to expect and why the class is valuable.”

Go Deep

When a format first hits the fitness community, many instructors jump on the bandwagon without a lot of training. A weekend workshop here, a class or two there and careful viewing of a DVD may be enough at the start of a trend. But the instructors who last are the ones who take the time to train seriously in the method.

According to Webster, the best fusion classes reflect the depth of both systems. Unfortunately, many classes don’t. “It is difficult to find instructors who are well-versed in yoga and Pilates—who truly understand the essence of each. Most fusion formats are very yoga with some Pilates thrown in, or vice versa. Make sure you are well-versed in all formats you are going to teach. Don’t think you can wing it in Pilates just because you are great at yoga, for example. Consumers are pretty smart and will see right through you.”

McCook also advises instructors to fully integrate any new approach before fusing it with the familiar. “Don’t practice on your students. A lot of people will teach things they don’t know, that they learned at a workshop over the weekend. Instead of practicing several times, they teach it the next day. It’s a mistake. You need to have a little more depth in what you’re doing before you launch it on students.”

This goes not just for teaching a new exercise but also for trying to update a familiar one. Valentin advises caution and careful thought before changing a time-tested traditional movement. “Know the intent of the exercise and where the focus should be before you make a change. Be able to explain why the movement is being changed.”

Less Is More

Fusion formats typically promise to deliver more bang for the buck: making strength training aerobic, developing core stability while burning calories, bringing pizzazz to a normally peaceful practice. Many yoga-Pilates classes started this way. However, the field is finding that when it comes to mind-body fusion, less is often more.

This was a lesson Webster learned through experience. “[When I began teaching fusion formats,] my focus was on helping people get more into less time—for example, combining resistance training with yoga for those who didn’t have time for an hour class in each. It was successful, but a tough workout! Now I am more focused on having students feel a familiar movement in a new way, helping people experience ‘aha’ moments.”

McCook agrees that Pilates and yoga classes should emphasize quality over quantity. “In other classes, it’s easy to get caught up in how hard a movement is or how much weight you’re using. Pilates and yoga are more about where your attention is as you move, the quality of your form, and noticing whether you are being kind to yourself.”

McCook advises other instructors to reflect on whether or not the tone of their classes encourages students to push themselves or reinforces the idea that going further is always better and a sign that you are performing a more advanced practice. “People come to class thinking that how far you go in a pose or exercise is how well you are doing it. This is really not the intent of mind-body practices. This mindset is a driving force for why people get hurt.” To shift the tone, he reminds participants to focus on doing a pose or exercise with good mechanics, rather than pushing or comparing themselves with neighbors. “I also include more discussion of the experience itself. Are you enjoying the movement or just trying to get somewhere? This matters for life.”

To help students develop greater awareness of healthy mechanics, McCook spends far more time on movement fundamentals and preparatory exercises than he used to. “I build [more slowly] than I used to and give more time to cool down. I emphasize yoga breathing techniques more, and how to coordinate breathing with movement. People need to learn how to slow down, breathe deeply and bring that into every exercise.” According to McCook, one of the biggest mistakes instructors make is to pack a class with advanced exercises and postures because participants say they want to work hard. “Don’t let clients run the class. They don’t really understand that learning how to move their body better requires attention.”

Body and Mind, Meet Spirit

Some of the early mind-body fusion formats made Pilates and yoga more accessible by emphasizing the fitness benefits. With time, the fitness community came to value and promote the stress reduction and focus-training aspects of Pilates and yoga. Now, fusion formats have welcomed the final piece: spirit.

To Archer, the defining quality of an authentic and evolved fusion format is an emphasis on nonjudgmental awareness and mindfulness. “This self-awareness can release a spiritual awakening and a sense of unity with all living beings. When we tap into that center of mystery and power, we experience gratitude, harmony and tremendous well-being. It can be transcendent.”

Of course, spiritual transcendence may not be foremost in the minds of participants when they drop in on a fusion class. But McCook says, “It doesn’t matter what got someone through the door. Students may be attracted to the class because they want their bodies to look better. But you can’t do something physical mindfully and not have a spiritual component.”

To acknowledge the spiritual side of Pilates and yoga, McCook frames the class with short meditations. “It’s really important to ask people at the beginning of class to set a personal intention for themselves. Have them close their eyes and check in. Give them time to let go of what happened earlier today; drop into breathing, sensation, gravity; and ask themselves, ‘What do I want to experience?’” At the end of the session, McCook has students return to their intentions and give themselves credit for taking the time and effort to practice.

Lifelong Learning

For the instructors themselves, teaching fusion formats has become a way to nurture their own spirit and creativity. “Whenever I get creative on the mat and begin exploring new formats or fusions, I always learn so much about myself and my body,” says Webster. “I’ve also learned to be more patient and compassionate toward others when they are in that same learning phase. I have become a much better coach and mentor through the creative process.”

Valentin says that teaching the format has opened her eyes to the relationship between exercise and quality of life. “When I started learning Pilates, I thought that it was just another form of exercise. I was wrong. The more I learn, the more I find out how little I know. It has become a way of life and [teaching Pilates fusion classes has helped show] me how every step I take, how I sit, how I stand and what I eat make an impact on my energy and my future.”

Pilates Pro - The Next Level of Pilates Instruction

Monday, December 4, 2006
Pilates Pro - the Pulse

As third- and fourth-generation Pilates teachers progress in their careers, many are seeking specialized instruction to help elevate their understanding of the method and its applications. Training programs are answering the demand, with instructors like Tom McCook of Center of Balance in Mountain View, CA, offering Continuing Education Courses with the experienced instructor in mind. "The goal of these workshops is to support teachers in developing the art of teaching and cultivating personal balance which allows you have a successful life," says McCook, who plans to launch an intensive advanced teacher training program in late 2007. "It's also about cultivating a community of teachers to share and develop with."

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PilatesStyle Magazine - Broaden Your Horizens

January/February 2006
— by Adam Endelman
Pilates Style January/February 2006

When scooping has you stumped and your core won't cooperate, a change of scenery and three mind-body lessons a day might be just what you need. See for yourself with Tom McCook's Pilates and Yoga retreats. Several times a year he leaves his studio, Center of Balance in Mountain View California, to bring students to deepen their practice amidst towering redwood trees at Stillheart retreat center in nearby Woodside, California, or along the Caribbean coast at Maya Tulum Resort, on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The daily classes at his weekend and week-long getaways cover the full range of McCook's breadth of knowledge - he specializes in at least seven mind-body disciplines and has designed programs for world-class athletes and regular folks alike.

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Mountain View Voice 2007 Best of Issue - Best Yoga Studio

April 2007
Mountain View Voice 2007 Best Yoga Studio

Best Yoga Studio — Center of Balance

When it comes to the matters of mind, body and soul, yoga lovers also voted for Center of Balance. The studio on Pear Avenue has a sizeable share of Pilates and yoga followers. Founder Tom McCook has designed programs for Olympians. Along with a team of instructors, McCook is teaching the art of balancing mind and body, which is getting recognition all around the Bay Area.

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The Center of Balance and its teachers helped change my life.

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Center of Balance is an official dealer for Balanced Body®. We can order any of their products at a discounted price.


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