Ask Rael Isacowitz Pilates Q & A: 24th Issue

by Rael Isacowitz

PS: Can you learn Pilates from just doing Pilates workout DVDs? 

Rael: This is a great question and one I have struggled with many times. For years, I resisted producing DVDs, training manuals, and later online software (Pilates Interactive), which is a repository of hundreds of video clips. I felt strongly that Pilates was an experiential process, one that needed to be guided by a teacher and mentor.

In a sense I still feel that way, but my views have been tempered somewhat. These resources (DVDs, manuals, books, software, podcasts, etc.) are excellent learning aids, which deepen the knowledge and understanding of Pilates and help in its practice. There is no doubt that these aids can help keep you on track with your practice.

Last summer I found myself on the road and desperately wanting a mat class, but just could not muster the drive to do it myself. I put on one of my DVDs, which I happened to have with me, and, for the first time since producing it some six years ago, I followed along. I really appreciated having a teacher (albeit myself) putting me through a class.

Bottom line, can DVDs replace a teacher? Nothing can replace a teacher. But a DVD can be a great way to supplement sessions with a teacher, and, in cases where there are no teachers or studios available, or finances are limited, DVDs and other online media can be a wonderful substitute.
PS: As a man yourself, do you think that men can benefit from Pilates as much as women can? How can I convince my husband to get on the mat? 

Absolutely! Men can benefit from Pilates just as much as women. Remember this system was created by a man and, by most accounts, primarily for men. Early archival footage of Joseph Pilates shows him teaching classes with the large majority being men. Somewhere along the line this changed. Men owe women a great dept for keeping the system alive, no doubt. But where did the men go?

As an avid athlete myself, and having worked with many Olympic-level athletes, I can tell you that Pilates offers huge benefits for athletes and for the many men interested in fitness. Men can look forward to potential gains in functional strength, flexibility and coordination. Due to Pilates’ focus on the core improvement is typically experienced in this area. But above all else the mind-body connection opens the door to huge potential benefits for harnessing the power of the mind.

Tiger Woods was recently quoted as praising Pilates as an exceptional form of training to compliment his fitness regimen. What man is going to say “no” to improving his golf game? No way! Pat Cash, the great tennis player has been a long time advocate of Pilates. Brian Lewis and Craig Moothart are 2 of the professional beach volleyball players I have worked with who found enormous value in practicing Pilates.

The benefits of Pilates are far reaching. I am sure that the interest of many men would be piqued to know that

Joseph Pilates was adamant that the regular practice of Pilates would improve the practitioner’s sex life.

We need to be fully aware that men are different from women. It is important for a Pilates teacher to recognize and embrace the many differences. Men often need different exercises, or certainly different resistance in a particular exercise. The cueing used with men will be different to that used with women. For instance some of the imagery that has become an accepted part of the Pilates lingo, “zip up the abdominals”, “feel as if you have a corset around your mid section”, “sense the pelvis is a bowl”, would fall on deaf ears with many men. However, choosing appropriate cues that a man can relate to, possibly that involve athletic activities, would yield good results.

The environment itself will often need to be adapted to be welcoming to both men and women. Choosing gender-neutral colors, using signs that address both genders and playing music that everyone can enjoy.

In my early years of instructing Pilates in London, “teaching Pilates to men” was probably the one workshop topic I was most often asked to present. Increasing numbers of men were starting to enter Pilates studios in the early Eighties, but instructors did not know what to do with them in this setting. Now, the male population among Pilates practitioners is continuing to grow and, as my dear friend and mentor Kathy Grant would say, “lets bring the masculinity back to Pilates”. Hear, hear!


This article first appeared in the July 2011 issue of Pilates Style Magazine. Responses modified with updated event information. For more great stories about Pilates, check out the latest issue of Pilates Style, on newsstands nationwide, in the app store or at

One Response to “Ask Rael Isacowitz Pilates Q & A: 24th Issue”

  1. Mark Breek says:

    Hi, I’m following Lazar Angelov 5 times a week wourkout routine to build muscle. How would you incorporate your pilates workout into it? Thanks for help in advance

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