Lisa Reynolds is Director of Mind Body Programs at East Bank Club in Chicago.
When & why did you start practicing (or teaching) Pilates (or Yoga)? How did you see Yoga “fitting” into your Pilates
Five years after college, I was encouraged by a physical therapist to try Pilates as an alternative to the lifting and Cardio that was causing me pain at the time. Pilates solved so many things for me. I began teaching in 2005 and it has been the driving force of my career ever since.
In 2018, I was asked to manage yoga instructors in addition to my Pilates and GYROTONIC staff. Although I had been practicing Yoga on and off since college, it was a deeply personal experience that I hadn’t wanted to demystify. However, once I began having meetings with my yoga staff, I wasn’t familiar with some of the deeper aspects of a yoga practice, so I attended an instructor training in 2019 finishing literally days before Chicago began to shelter in place in 2020.
Why do you choose to do both modalities?
Pilates gave me purpose. Its approach makes sense to me. It feels amazing. It challenges my concentration and my strength. It requires my intellect.
Yoga always feels very healing to me, even when it’s rigorous. Yoga was originally taught to me in theatre school as a way to prepare your mind and body to be a calm, centered empty vessel so that you could be ready for anything onstage. It is always my go to when I need to be more grounded spiritually and emotionally.
What are some of the key similarities and differences between Yoga & Pilates?
Pilates and Yoga both use coordination of breath and movement and do wonders for your strength, flexibility, and balance. They both have systematic approaches. The main difference is that Yoga is an ANCIENT collection of wisdom, philosophy, and physical practices that has been handed down over generations. Yoga practices are not just a routine of movements. In Yoga, one can find directives on how to follow a routine of practices in the morning and before sleep (Dinachayra). Guidelines for how you live your life (Yamas and Niyamas) are part of Yoga’s philosophy. Pilates has passed through a handful of generations. Will all aspects of your life relate back to Pilates one day? It’s possible. Joe also outlined a number of life practices we should adhere to in Your Health and Return to Exercise. Perhaps 2000 years from now, the work of Joseph Pilates will have expanded into the same kind of thing. Only time will tell.
As far as teaching both, one thing I had to learn teaching yoga was to talk less. After years of teaching Pilates, I can be specific, detailed, and love to try to get a room to move without a hair out of place. In Yoga, my mentors believed in giving students space to embody things on their own, which meant NOT controlling every inhale and exhale. It was difficult to adapt at first, but once I understood and trusted my own experience in classes where others didn’t cue my every molecule, it empowered me to give my Pilates students more freedom and autonomy…and the space for them to have their own experience, which is crucial in both disciplines.
What are the benefits of practicing both Yoga & Pilates?
The detail work of Pilates is exceptionally helpful to a Yoga practice, and a Yoga practice can also teach Pilates students to relax into their control, which is what I think that Joe ultimately wanted.
What is your favorite Yoga pose? Pilates move? Hybrid?
Right now, I’m teaching a ton of meditation so my favorite Yoga thing right now is actually a Pranayama technique called Bhramari breathing. In it, you place your thumbs in your ears, wrap your fingers to cover your eyes, inhale, and as you exhale you hum for at least 15 seconds and allow the vibration of your humming to permeate your entire body. It is so soothing for your nervous system.
My favorite Pilates move? Short Spine. It’s challenging, and it feels delicious.
I usually like to keep the disciplines separate, but I have used the Cadillac a lot to fast-track me to better Tree pose and Chaturanga.