Ask Rael Q & A: 20th Issue

by BASI Pilates

After a cardio session, does it matter if you stretch the upper or lower body first?

In my opinion it does not matter whether you stretch the upper or lower body first. Certainly, after a cardio session the entire body and musculature are warm and primed for stretching. How to stretch is another matter, as is whether you need to stretch at all. Stretching is a controversial topic and there are as many opinions regarding it as stars in the sky.

When it comes to Pilates and stretching, some teachers feel that stretching is an integral part of Pilates and there is no need to add additional stretching. Others believe that every Pilates session should include an additional segment that is specifically focused on stretching.

As often is the case, I take the middle road, basing my approach on the individual I am working with. People who are tight need additional stretching, and this should be taken into account when tailoring a session for them. Conversely, people who are hyper-mobile probably do not need to stretch after a cardio session, or to have additional stretches added to their session. They need to work on strength and control, which in my view equates to functional flexibility – the ability to maintain the integrity of the body’s alignment through the full range of motion.


What’s the difference between Pilates and yoga? Please set the record straight!

Wow, I am not sure I, or any one person, can do that. But, having devoted many years to both these disciplines – I practiced yoga on a regular basis from my teens to my late twenties and have been doing Pilates for the past 32 years – I believe I am in a position to offer a sound opinion.

Let me say first that I love them both, but they are completely different. They both happen to belong to a genre called “mind-body” in the fitness and wellness industries – but that’s where the similarity ends. That is the way it should be. They are systems unto themselves, with their own identities, philosophies, movements and personalities; each with its own soul! Why do people feel it is necessary to compare the two? Why not compare Pilates to Tai Chi or Aikido?

Adding to the complexity is the fact that there are so many types of yoga, and in fact many different approaches to Pilates. That makes comparison all the more difficult, if not absurd. I say, enjoy each one for what it is. They are both for anyone, but not for everyone. Each person should find what works best for her and devote herself to the study of that discipline. I can assure everyone that both yoga and Pilates, if practiced with discipline, diligence and with a good teacher, will produce positive results.

I recognize that there is a trend today to create fusions. (You did not ask but I will share my opinion about this too) I am not an advocate of fusions. In my opinion they all too often take systems that are good in and of themselves and mix them together, often diluting them and losing the potency of each one on its own. Why mix? Study each one independently. Certainly, as teachers we are influenced by different experiences. My yoga has definitely influenced my practice of, and approach to, Pilates. So has my dance experience and the many other athletic disciplines I am involved in, as well as my academic studies. But that just adds depth to my teaching of Pilates; it does not make it Pilates-yoga-windsurfing-mountainbiking-snowboarding-dance-sex-ilates!


How do you help your clients stay fit during the holiday season?

The answer to this is similar to the one I gave to a question in the Pilates Style 2012 Resource Guide concerning the value of 15-minute workouts. The holiday season is a tough period for staying fit and certainly for staying slim. I love the socializing, sitting around eating, drinking and being merry; the last thing any of us wants to think about is fitness and limiting our food and alcohol consumption … but we must!

In my view, the key is moderation and balance. What I mean by balance is that if you consumed excessively yesterday, cut back today. The same applies to staying fit. Don’t binge and don’t cut it out altogether. Do 15-minute workouts every day until you can get back to your routine of three one-hour sessions a week with shorter sessions on the in-between days. At the end of the week, everything should equal out, keeping fit, staying in good shape and being happy.


This article first appeared in the January 2012 issue of Pilates Style Magazine. For more great stories about Pilates, check out the latest issue of Pilates Style, on newsstands nationwide, in the app store or at


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