I’ve been an outdoors and fitness writer for nearly twenty years, and an ardent practitioner of Pilates for over five years. Strike that. I’m a Pilates fanatic. When I began Pilates, I was hobbled by
an old hip injury so bad that I’d lost my ability to bike, run, or do any of the outdoor sports that not only had made my living for me, but had constituted my entire identity. Three months after I
began doing Pilates, I had recovered sufficiently to begin doing everything I’d thought I’d lost forever. I started at a moderate pace, but a year later, I was back in shape. Today, at 46, I’m as
capable as I was before my injury (which I suffered when I was 31 years old; I like to tell people that I’m great at jumping a mountain bike, but terrible at landing.)
What does this have to do with In & Up Pilates, a studio in Silverlake, Los Angeles? Because in a city with over 100 Pilates studios, there’s a lot of confusion over what Pilates really is – and
believe me, it does matter. In & Up is one of just a handful of places in this Pilates town that teaches the discipline the way Joseph Pilates (yes, he was a real person) intended it to be taught.
This isn’t yoga, this isn’t physical therapy; it isn’t dance, or aerobics, or circuit training. All of those are wonderful things to do, and quite beneficial, but they’re not Pilates – a discipline
that encompasses elements of all those things, but a discipline in and of itself.
Pilates is a systematic pursuit – almost a martial art – that can lead to life-long fitness if you follow it the right way.
But don’t be afraid. Pilates practiced the way Joe Pilates intended it is challenging, but it is welcoming to beginners (I started barely able to walk, forty pounds overweight, and very, very scared.)
It grows with you. You will advance on day one, and you will advance on day 1,000; you will also feel welcomed on both those days, and all the days in between. Pilates practiced the right way is fun,
exhilarating. It is never a contest. It is barely trendy. It is simply real. You may not know the difference at first, but your body will (and I promise, if you try genuine Pilates for a month or two,
and then visit a studio that’s less authentic, you will be able to tell. You’ll be spoiled forever.)
The issue of genuineness is not a philosophical one. Classical Pilates instructors – as those who adhere to the true Joseph Pilates method are called – usually undergo certification processes that
involve far more hours, and far more testing, than other types of teachers. Most of the folks teaching at In & Up were trained by Power Pilates, a New York-based program that directly descends from
the original Manhattan Pilates studio. One hallmark of Power Pilates instruction is consistency: if you become a Pilates addict, you can instantly tell – no matter where you’re taking a class – that
you’re working out with a Power Pilates-trained teacher. I’ve taken Pilates classes in ten countries, twenty states, and over thirty studios in Los Angeles. I promise you: there’s no other
certification program that offers such consistency and quality. (It is important to note that there are other programs that are equally authentic. Power Pilates is just the biggest. Some instructors –
including my first and current trainer, Ana Caban, who works out of the In & Up studio, were directly certified by Joe’s disciple, Romana Kryzanowska, which is about as high quality as you can get. I
also don’t mean to put down the individual teachers who’ve gotten their training in non-classical Pilates. I’ve worked out with them, and they’re nearly all dedicated and caring people. But for the
most part, they don’t know as much or teach as well. That’s just my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. Sorry.)
As I mentioned, my job takes me all over the world. Wherever I travel, I try to take a Pilates class. I’ve experienced some pretty wild ones. In Bangkok, I balanced on a fitness ball and was asked to
clap my hands and shake my tail-feathers while holding hands with two partners. This was loads of fun and rather challenging. But it wasn’t Pilates. At a local studio here in Los Angeles, an
instructor told me that she was interested in the classical style, but found it too rigid, and preferred to improvise, inventing her own variations. I watched as one of the students hobbled off with
an unspecified muscle strain after class. At a New York studio, I found that some instructors were amazing – consistent, rigorous, and disciplined – while others went off on tangents. The key to real
Pilates is structure so finely grained that there’s a lifetime of exploration within it. You don’t need tangents, and you don’t need a studio where the experience flip-flops from day to day (which
isn’t to say there’s no room for different styles. About half dozen teachers work at In & Up, and they’re not robots. Each has a different way of teaching, a different way of communicating, and a
different way of helping you understand the discipline. The great thing is that within this variety, there’s teamwork: they know your goalposts and the general goalposts of Pilates, and know how to
get you to both.)
There are other excellent places to take Pilates in Los Angeles. I’ve been to many of them. But I can’t think of a single neighborhood studio that offers more than In & Up. You can take private
classes with the owner, Stephanie; or with Ana, whose DVDs are the most popular – and best; they’re how I started – Pilates instructional media on the planet. The studio offers mat classes, equipment
classes, and workshops for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students. The studio brings in well-known instructors from around the world for special weekend seminars. All this from an unassuming,
friendly studio sandwiched between a travel agency and a mini-mart on a Los Angeles street corner. In & Up doesn’t charge membership fees; you can buy classes one at a time, or purchase discounted
multi-packs. You don’t have to have a rock-hard body. There’s no waiting list. You don’t even have to spend a lot of money: one of the true hallmarks of a classical studio is that first and foremost,
the work on the mat is the key to the entire discipline. Mat classes are the most inexpensive way to do Pilates; a session is usually no more costly than a similar offering at a yoga studio. All that
medieval equipment is cool and fun, but you need never use it. In real Pilates, your body is the most important tool. By understanding this, you learn to train yourself, prevent injury, and save
money. A three-day a week Pilates habit – which is what Joe Pilates recommended – becomes a very affordable way to stay extremely fit and sharp.
I haven’t been paid to say any of this. I wish this would get me some free lessons. It won’t. I simply love the discipline. It has changed my life. Neither my body nor my spirit ever tire of Pilates.
I am constantly challenged, and as I get older, I find that my strength, stamina, flexibility, and recovery ability aren’t just being maintained – they’re improving. I have Pilates, and especially
classical Pilates, and especially Ana Caban, and especially In & Up Pilates, to thank for that.
As I’ve said, for variety, fun, caring instructors, and authenticity, I know of no better Pilates studio in Los Angeles than In & Up. But you can also find good mat classes at Equinox Health Clubs,
where the instructors are Power Pilates certified; and good equipment classes in Beverly Hills, at the Vertical Workshop, which is a major Power Pilates training center in Southern California. I’d
suggest taking a few weeks of classes at In & Up or any of these classically-oriented studios, even if you live far away. Then try your local studio. You’ll be able to tell the difference. If you want
to contact me – I’ve got a list of good Pilates studios for many places around the country and the world – please decipher this and email me at: dan at dankoeppel dot com.