New York City’s Pilates gurus
Pilates in New York isn’t about the studios, it’s about the gurus—the posture-perfect instructors who teach us how to activate our cores, breath correctly, and align our shoulders over hips over knees with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker.
Many of the city’s top Pilates teachers today were trained by Joseph Pilates' protege, Romana Kryzanowska. And each of these leaders carries a profound respect for the classical movements, while adding his or her own vision, flair, or expertise to create a slew of nuanced approaches.
And in a town where 12-pound handbags and chronic desk slump can create a culture in need of postural correction, let's just say these anatomy-obsessed professionals are pretty busy.
Here, we introduce you to New York's ten Pilates gurus…
Erika Bloom, who's been teaching for more than 15 years, is the go-to guru of the Upper East Side (she also operates in the Hamptons year-round), where her chic studio offers what she calls "Pilates Plus." She's a magnet for socialities, CEOs, and celebs, like Django Unchained's Kerry Washington.
"I'm passionate about the effectiveness of Pilates but I'm also committed to understanding the biomechanics of the body, mastering all of the science and fitness methods available to me, and then incorporating that knowledge into my teaching," she explains.
To that end, Bloom has additional training and certifications in areas like therapeutic yoga, gait analysis, Feldenkrais, the Alexander Technique, and more.
Jennifer DeLuca trained with Romana Kryzanowska, and she opened Body Tonic, a popular Park Slope studio, just over 13 years ago. And much of Brooklyn owes their solid core and long, lean muscles to her.
DeLuca's a tough teacher who'll run you through the choreography of classical Pilates exercises on the Reformer, as well as on the Cadillac, Chair, and Ped-o-Pul springs.
And yet she understands the motivation issues that can plague the proper-posture-seeking person, having published Pilates for Wimps: Total Fitness for the Partially Motivated in 2003.
The book shows off her gift for humor while correcting your anatomical weaknesses from a Pilates (and perfectionist) perspective. To that end, DeLuca both honors her Pilates lineage and allows her instruction to be influenced by her additional trainings in yoga, dance, and barre.
Ellie Herman fell in love with Pilates after it helped her recover from a knee injury many years ago, and she's now been teaching for 22 years. She owns three eponymous Brooklyn studios and has written nine books on the method, including Pilates for Dummies.
And although she trained with Romana Kryzanowska, Herman is not a Pilates purist.
"I teach an evolved method of Pilates integrating a functional, corrective approach with a hard-core workout," she explains. That includes a Pilates boot camp, and even an at-home springboard you can have your contractor fix to a wall in your living room to keep up with your workouts.
Less about kicking your butt (and even Joseph Pilates's intentions), are her sweet Pilates classes for parents and babies.
Former professional dancer Brett Howard has been involved in the influential New York Pilates Studio Teacher Certification program since he trained with Kryzanowska in 1998 and is the director of education for the affiliated United States Pilates Association.
His career is centered on teaching Authentic Pilates, which focuses on staying true to the original, authentic teachings of Joseph Pilates.
Howard travels around the world offering workshops and training teachers, but his home base is now the Pilates Haus, a studio he opened across the Hudson in Jersey City in 2004.
When the Kane School opened in 1999, it quickly became a world-renowned center for Pilates certification.
Like many Pilates gurus, Kane trained with Kryzanowska and went on to refine her personal approach. In Kane's case, that approach involved more focus on anatomy and an evolving understanding of how the human body moves.
She also honed her body knowledge in lots of other disciplines, becoming certified in massage therapy, CranioSacral therapy, Iyengar yoga, and Gyrotonic movement. "Over time I’ve developed a kind of 'x-ray vision,'" she says. "I can often 'see' with my hands what is happening below the surface of the skin." (She's talking about anatomy and structural weaknesses; not what you had for lunch.)
Kane's famed training program is now housed within Kinected on 19th Street.
McCulloch, who is the co-director of the Kane School and co-owns Kinected with his wife, Carrie (an MD), brings a slightly modern, anatomy-centric approach to the Pilates scene. He's been teaching for 20 years and served as the director of training and education operations for Pilates Academy International, and as an instructor trainer for Stott Pilates.
"I combine my background in movement with a deep respect for anatomy and clinical medicine to help the body move as efficiently as it was designed," McCulloch says. "Pilates is smart, but the human body is even smarter. If you treat it with respect and allow it to move as it was designed, you can't go wrong."
Because of this approach, he's the go-to guy for New York athletes recovering from (or actively trying to prevent) injuries. Outside of the studio, he and his wife also work to bridge the gap between the medicine and movement worlds, exposing movement professionals to med-school style anatomy classes via FAMI and introducing doctors in training to Pilates techniques.
Susan Moran has been teaching since she was certified by Kryzanowska in 1988, and she's been the director and co-owner of Power Pilates on 23rd Street since 1995.
Power Pilates has long been a hub for New York's ab-strengthening scene, with the equipment literally being carried over into the space after Kryzanowska's original studio closed its doors.
Moran presided over the development of Power Pilates's popular training program and the instruction of thousands of Pilates teachers nationwide. (Unsurprisingly, it includes a strong emphasis on Pilates' original teachings.)
When Power Pilates was acquired by Apogee Wellness in 2009, Moran became the president of Apogee Life Institute, where she develops education and online programs for the fitness world.
Brooke Siler founded Re:ab Pilates, her Soho studio, after finding Pilates in 1994. She has since become one of the most renowned instructors in the world and is the author of The Pilates Body, the best-selling Pilates book of all time.
Siler is known for her uncanny ability to read her clients' bodies and personalities in order to create routines that are are precisely fitted to the individual's physical needs and lifestyle.
"What sets Brooke apart from other instructors is her ability to pinpoint the "problem area" in each client she works with almost immediately," says local client Carolyn Coombs. "She then spends the entire session tailoring the workout to benefit the client in a way that no other instructor can."
Uptown Pilates founder Mika Street is a next-generation Pilates guru. She trained with Brett Howard and has been teaching for close to ten years, and her two locations on the Upper East and Upper West Sides (plus a third in Sag Harbor) have become go-to studios.
Street is passionate about Pilates instructors having the highest-level certifications possible, and her dedication to Joseph Pilates's original movements is complete—she's been known to read through his manifesto on the subway, for an occasional "refresher."
"The key is adapting the exercises accordingly for each client, taking into account how they move as an individual," she says.
Alycea Ungaro is a true luminary in the Pilates world. The former ballerina and owner of Tribeca's Real Pilates discovered the method in 1984 and began teaching in 1993. She's trained celebrities like Madonna and Molly Sims and has written a handful of books, including Pilates: Body in Motion.
Ungaro admits she's "obsessed" with the Pilates Tower springs and the unique resistance training opportunities they provide, and her newest class, SpringTONE, packs the method's hardest exercises utilizing the springs into a sweaty, fast-paced class.
Her innovation, however, should not be confused with defection. "My team and I believe that the method is perfect but often poorly delivered," Ungaro says. "We believe that targeted hands on work, advanced cueing, and a focus on body alignment are the key to that 'next level' Pilates training we're known so well for."
Ungaro's also studying clinical nutrition to offer her clients solid information about what they should put in their bodies as well as how they should move them.