Tag: classes

Top 10 Pilates Questions

I’m new to Pilates. How do I start?
The best way to start if you have never tried Pilates is to begin with an orientation. In an orientation, a certified Pilates instructor will teach you a beginner lesson on the Pilates equipment, and then direct you to the class you would like to take.

How do I make an appointment for my orientation?
Contact Danielle Zack, Pilates Director at dzack@sacdt.com or (206) 443.1111 x246.

What is the difference between mat classes and private instruction sessions?
Pilates is intended to be done one-on-one under an instructor’s supervision and guidance, and mat classes are meant to supplement the work you do with your instructor. Both are valuable, though, and will strengthen your body. Private sessions are tailored to your individual needs so if you have injuries or specific physical concerns this is your best choice. Mat classes are designed for the general population and there is less individual attention.

What are the prices?
The average cost for a single Pilates session in the city of Seattle is $71.70 per hour. The SAC offers the highest quality instruction for nearly 40% less!

  • Private Session – $50
  • Duet Session – $31/client
  • Group Session – $25/client

How long are the lessons?
All sessions are 55-minutes in length.

What should I wear?
Please wear comfortable, fitted workout clothes and clean socks (no shoes needed).

Where do I go for my first Pilates session?
Come downstairs to the Pilates Studio, which is located across the Café next to the cycling room. Please feel free to enter and sit down next to the desk. If this is your first appointment, some paperwork will be on a clipboard with your name on it for you to start filling out. The instructor will be finishing up teaching a client, so feel free to watch. You’ll be next!

What if I make an appointment and I have to cancel?
All cancellations require 24 hours notice. All cancellations must be directly given to your instructor via email or phone messages. All appointments cancelled with less than 24 hours notice will be charged the full session amount.

Where do I go for mat class?
All Pilates mat classes are located in the Mind/Body Studio, which is across the basketball court.

Which Pilates mat class is right for me?
If you are a brand-new beginner, please come to the Introduction to Pilates Mat class on Saturday at 8 a.m. If you have very little experience with Pilates, please come to any Fundamentals Pilates Mat class. If you have some/moderate experience with Pilates, please come to any Fundamentals or Intermediate Pilates Mat class. If you have extensive experience, please feel free to come to any class, including the classes marked Cardio-based mat, magic circle mat, and Saturday’s advanced mat class.

If you have severe injuries or just concerns, please feel free to contact Danielle Zack for a recommendation.

Summer core prep with the Side Plank yoga pose

Vasisthasana = “best, most excellent posture”

Vasisthansana or “Side Plank Pose” is a very rich core exercise indeed. As summer approaches and we want to look our “bikini” best, time to add Side Plank to your routine.

Most summer athletic sports require a strong core and flexible side waist. Think, reaching for a football pass, keeping your balance on your mountain bike while ripping up a tricky trail, or max length for free style swim. Side Plank will strengthen your Serratius (deep side muscles) and Latissimus Dorsi (the big group of outer corset muscles that span from your shoulder blades and wrap around your side waist to pelvic region). This pose will also strengthen wrists, shoulders, arms and legs, while creating flexibility in your hips. I will give modifications for those with injury in the arms.

Let’s Play

  1. Start in Down Dog and tune into your breath. Once your breath is steady and engaged, then start your practice. This will help you stay focused.
  2. Roll forward to Plank Pose
  3. Move your right hand underneath your nose on the mat, and spread your fingers wide like a pancake. IF you have injury in any part of your arm, please drop your bottom knee on the floor to support your body weight from here on out.
  4. Carefully roll to the side, opening hips and stack your feet on top of each other, lifting the hips as high as you can, reaching the left hand straight up to the ceiling.
  5. If you are feeling fresh, lift your top leg a few inches off the other while lifting hips. This will increase your balance and strength practice.
  6. Hold Side Plank for 5-10 breaths and repeat on opposite side.
  7. Rest in Child’s pose with hands by hips for 10 breaths before moving into the rest of your practice.


  1. Drop bottom knee to the floor, and keep it there.
  2. Rest on forearm for side plank instead of wrists, to protect injured parts.
  3. Engage your core, and lift kneecaps for max focus on strength. Stay like a board, not sagging in the hips, shoulders, etc.
  4. BREATH!

Side Plank is one of my favorite poses to build the core strength and awareness for more complex poses and inversions. I am available for private Yoga coaching at Seattle Athletic Club, if you have any questions about this pose or want to enrich your on going practice!

Tips for sharing lanes in the pool

From the time we are babies we are taught to share. With this simple teaching the hope is as adults we continue to use this practice. This goes with so many different things in life.

You think “I need to get my laps in, I will go swimming today”. You head to the club. In the locker room you put on your swim suit and cap with goggles in hand you head to the pool after you have showered. You’re all ready to jump in and swim as you walk onto the pool deck you think to yourself “what’s this? All the lanes have someone in them!” There is a swim lesson in one lane, someone jogging in another lane and the other lanes have one person swimming. What do you do? Do you wait for a lane to open up? Do you get mad and leave?

There is a simple answer to those questions and leaving is not it. This is where the life long lesson of sharing comes into play. Watch the swimmers see who fits in with your level or speed of swimming. You can wait for them to stop and see you standing on the deck to ask them if they will share with you. You may think I don’t want to disturb someone’s pace; you can climb in making sure not to get in the way. Stand off to the side when they stop ask if they would like to swim circles or split the lane in half.

If you are the person swimming and see someone looking for a place to swim you can offer to share your lane with them. It is also possible to ask the jogger and lesson if they wouldn’t mind sharing a lane so you can swim laps.

Lap lanes can hold many people in them. If you leave :05 – :10 seconds between you and the person in front of you there will be plenty of room for a lot of people. If you were on swim team growing up you always shared lanes with possibly 10 or more people. It’s nice to have the pool or lane to yourself. Sometimes we get so used to it that the first thought is “What? My lane has someone in it.”

All in all there is plenty of room for everyone. All we need to do is SHARE.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Scissors

Strengthens the abdominals, increases spine flexibility, stretches the hamstrings and hip flexors.

Starting Position:
Lie down on mat and bring your legs up to a 90 degree angle, toes pointed. Arms long by sides, palms down.

  1. Inhale; prepare the body and scoop abdominals inward. Exhale; continue to lift your legs up to ceiling (toes to ceiling). Inhale; bring the hands underneath the hips with finger tips pointed outward and the wrists supporting the back and hips.
  2. Exhale; scissor the legs; one leg moves over the head as the other leg moves toward the mat in the opposite direction. Switch legs and continue to scissor. Keep the hips and pelvis still as you move legs; pulsing slightly.
  3. Inhale; bring the legs back up over the hips (toes reach to ceiling). Exhale; allow your back to roll down to the mat, slowly and carefully, one vertebra at a time.
  4. Complete 3-5 sets

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Do not roll onto the neck
  • Keep the elbows parallel to each other (or as close as possible) & cradle the pelvis with the hands
  • Keep torso rock solid as you scissor
  • Breath fully and deeply to facilitate the scissor motion

Imagine the legs opening wide like a handheld fan, then closing and opening to the other side.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pike on Floor or Stretch with Pumping

Purpose: This exercise increases flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back, plus challenges the powerhouse. It’s a great prep for the Mat exercise, Teaser.

Starting Position: Sit on the floor facing the chair, weight just back of sit-bones. Place your feet on front edge of chair with legs together. Arms long, reaching forward, palms on raised pedal. Shoulders down and stabilized.

  1. Inhale; Prepare. Exhale; Nod your chin, increase spinal flexion to maintain C-curve. Engage abdominals as you press the pedal down (arms can be slightly bent).
  2. 2. Inhale; Lift the pedal back up with control, keep abs engaged. Lengthen the spine and release the pedal. Exhale.
  3. 3. Repeat 3-5 times.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid neck, arm or shoulder tension
  • Keep abdominals engaged throughout exercise
  • Keep arms in same position relative to torso so the pedal is depressed by abdominals, not by pushing with the arms

Modifications: Sit on a foam cushion or platform extender to decrease gripping in hips.

What do I need to bring to my Pilates lesson?

  • Clean socks. Pilates exercises utilize the feet, so we don’t work out wearing shoes. If you are concerned about slipping, you can bring your socks with little sticky grips on the bottom. Or, we can provide a sticky pad to help adhere the feet to the Pilates equipment.
  • Fitted workout clothes. Pilates works on alignment; therefore, we need to see your body! We look for specific landmarks in the hips, shoulders, knees, ankles, and metatarsals.
  • Health history. It helps us to know what your health has been like your whole life, not just recent injuries. Chronic means long-lasting and acute means short and severe. We want to know both!
  • Energy. By now, everyone realizes that Pilates works your core, so some people like to workout on an empty stomach. I can’t emphasize this enough: don’t skip breakfast! A Pilates lesson is an hour long and requires energy (calories) to get through it! Eat something before you come, even if it’s just a handful of almonds. Your body and brain need the fuel.
  • No equipment. We supply mats, towels, equipment, etc. If you want to bring gloves, like weight training gloves, feel free. You probably won’t need them for your first lesson, but eventually we work up to pull-ups, and you may like them for cushion, comfort and grip.

Pilates… more than a late night infomercial.

Pilates, a system of exercise created by Joseph Pilates, was originally designed to be a one-on-one personalized workout with an instructor. Nowadays, thanks to late night infomercials and books galore, Pilates seems to be thought of as just a generic “mat class”, but the true intention is to use any and all of the spring-loaded equipment created by Joe, including mat, to find and strengthen weakness in the body. Not every body needs every exercise. The work is most effective when tailored to you.

It may help to understand where Joseph Pilates came from. Joseph Pilates was a sick child, suffering from asthma and rickets, and was determined to create a healthy body for himself. So, he studied yoga, wrestling, gymnastics and acrobatics, and throughout his life put together a series of exercises using a mat. He started teaching mat conditioning, and quickly noticed how nearly impossible it was for most people, so he knew they needed something else to support their mat work.

At the same time, he was German national in an internment camp and many of the people around him were injured soldiers. For the injured soldiers he attached heavy springs to their hospital beds, so they could strengthen their bodies from bed. This design evolved into the “Cadillac” or “Trapeze Table” that current Pilates instructors use to strengthen legs, arms, chest, back and of course abdomen.

The Universal Reformer, or another “bed on springs,” offers additional resistance in order to provide more stability or to provide an added challenge to those who need it. When Pilates is taught one-on-one (the ideal way), the instructor typically incorporates work on the reformer and mat, as well as other Pilates apparatus, based on your needs. The individual session caters to the specific needs of the client, where each exercise is systematically performed and specifically chosen for you.
The focal points of his work are to increase lung capacity, to improve core strength and to use one’s mind to control body movements. Hence, the six Pilates principles evolved: control, centering, concentration, precision, breath, and flow.

The work on the mat, where your muscles create the resistance, and the apparatus, where springs create the resistance, complement each other. As you become stronger by working on the apparatus, consequently, the mat work often becomes more challenging and fulfilling. Including private Pilates sessions in your fitness regime will better allow an instructor to focus on your individual needs, and will help you to develop the strength and flexibility necessary to correctly perform and benefit fully from the mat work.

Your workout should never feel easy, but should always present new and different challenges as you work your powerhouse deeper. So, enjoy the “journey” that is Pilates. It’s well worth the hard work!

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pull the Pedal Up or Elephant on the Wunda Chair

Purpose: To develop abdominal control, scapular stabilization and strengthen shoulder girdle. This exercise is 100% Powerhouse, making it difficult to perform. A trained professional must spot throughout exercise.

Starting Position: Face the pedal & place the palm of your hands on the edge of the chair with fingertips hanging off. Step 1 foot on the pedal to press it down, step the other foot on. Glue your heels together and lift so you are balancing on your tip toes.

  1. Inhale; Keep scapulae stable and round the trunk in a pike position, scooping your abs. Float your head between your shoulders.
  2. Exhale; with Powerhouse strength, lift pelvis up towards ceiling allowing weight to shift into hands. For 3 counts, lift pedal higher to top of its range.
  3. Inhale; lower pedal down with control. Bring pedal just above base (not quite to the floor), maintain the pike position.
  4. Complete 3-5 reps, lower pedal all the way down. Step 1 foot left; then the other, not letting the pedal rebound.

Visualization: Imagine your are floating upward – levitating.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid sinking through shoulders
  • Keep head aligned with spine, think of dropping top of head toward floor
  • Stabilize around shoulders and through arms to avoid losing control
  • Don’t let your body rock or your hips move from side to side

Modifications: Omit the 3 count pulses.

Guess what? Pilates is hard! But these guys keep coming back for more.

Rick started taking weekly private Pilates sessions because he was concerned about his posture and core strength. He periodically had back problems which he believes are primarily iliopsoas strains and quadratus lumborum tightness. He knows that core strength is critical to preventing such problems. In addition he has a family history of osteoarthritis and he feared that his poor posture and inflexibility set him up for similar problems. He had heard that Pilates was helpful for core strength, improving flexibility and posture and since he had a free hour class from the summer rewards program, he thought he would give it a try.

“I think Pilates has helped a great deal, though obviously it’s still a work in progress. My back problems have melted away, I can reach my toes on most days and I think I’m internalizing Danielle’s voice in my head to, “Scoop and open up your chest,” so that I’m much more mindful of my posture.”

There are a lot of things Rick enjoys about Pilates, including three major points;

  1. He feels like he is making progress
  2. His instructor Danielle is always pushing him further “in a pleasant way”
  3. He has fun! He now has added a mat class to his weekly regime. Rick says, “The Pilates studio seems always to be filled with laughter as we joke and lament our way through class. I look forward to it every week!”

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Hip Circles

Purpose: Hip Circles focus on the abdominal muscles; stretches the front of the shoulders, across the chest, and down the arms.

Starting Position: Sit in a V position with the arms extended behind the body, hands resting on floor; fingers face away from body. The legs are together, about an 60 degree angle from the floor.

  1. Inhale; move your legs down and around to the right.
  2. Exhale, complete the circle, bringing the legs to the left and back up to the starting V position.
  3. Complete 3-5 sets.

Visualization: Imagine your hands are stuck in cement and you are unable to move your torso except to keep it lifting to the ceiling.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Begin small, increasing circles as you gain strength.
  • Circling the legs too low will compromise your abdominals.
  • Don’t let the upper body collapse.
  • Press the shoulders down and away from your ears.

Modifications: Prop yourself up on your elbows if maintaining straight arms is to difficult.

Note: Photo shows an alternative arm position. We like arms behind body or the modification.