Pilates 101 In Your Own Words | Originally Published February 16, 2007

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 | I still give my now-famous Pilates 101 lecture to every single client I work with, almost all the teachers I’ve worked with have adopted their own version of it.  Mine continues to evolve, I still have all the paper and electronic versions I reference in this 2007 piece and I love going back over them so I can see the arc of my own process and progress.

My 100% spine safe, 100% functional, 100% authentic Portfolio Pilates program integrates the information conveyed in a Pilates 101 lecture into every session and group.

Questions or need help?

I’m right here.

[email protected]

+1 206 963 0755



Friday, February 16. 2007

Pilates 101 In Your Own Words


Tom Petro, authentically trained teacher, writes:

I am a Pilates Instructor here in Reading , PA and  I just read your Pilates-Pro article “Pilates 101 for New Clients” (www.Pilates-Pro.com).   It sounds like a great idea. Do you have copies or E-mail of your lecture so I can use yours as a basis to form my own (I’m terrible at writing that kind of thing).

The Pilates Nun responds:

Hey Tom, I was born in Steubenville, Ohio – we’re practically neighbors!

I’m going to totally hook you up but before I do, some praise is in order.

Good for you for realizing the value of orienting your clients to the work and for wanting to develop your own Pilates 101. I am also impressed by your ability to be candid about your writing skills; I’m certain you’re a way better writer than you think.

I’m going to set out an easy process for you to use in creating your very own Pilates 101 lecture but I’m NOT going to wholesale give you mine.  Here’s why.


My Pilates 101 consists of my words, it sounds like me, it articulates my research, my understanding of the work, my personal experience with it, it supports the mission of my teaching and that of my studio and school.  Every session I teach, and I mean every single one, supports my own Pilates 101 lecture.  

My path to Pilates 101. 

To develop the basic content of my Pilates 101, I spent the 10 months during my primary training researching and I read thousands of pages from many, many books, articles and studies.  Once I had the beginning version down pat, it took another year or two to tweak it into what’s ended up being absolutely perfect for me and my studio.  And I’m still adjusting as I continue to learn and expand my library; I just recently added 3 pictures from a cadaver book (balanced psoas, imbalanced psoas and a cross-section between L3 and L4 that shows the quad support of the psoas and multifidi – thrilling!). 

I’ve got the anatomy portion on Power Point and I show that either on my laptop or studio computer, we’ve got 2 complete copies on individual pieces of paper that we can flip through sitting side by side with our client, I’ve got it pasted up on a fold-out display board like you’d set up on a table top and I can even go old school and show it on overhead slides when I’ve got a big group and no data projector.

I’ve given my Pilates 101 hundreds of time to individuals and to audiences of up to 80 or so people.  It took three years of working side by side with me day in and day out for Sister Heidi Sidekick, the fabulous Miss Heidi Byrnes, to feel comfortable enough with the information to give our Pilates 101 lecture.  To date, Heidi is the only teacher I’ve ever employed who’s cared enough to thoroughly learn the technical stuff and to develop her own communication skills so that she can sit anyone down and get them through it quickly and effectively.  God Bless Heidi!

Most of our Pilates 101 presentations are 10 minutes or less but occasionally, when clients are super detail oriented or injury specific, they can last 15 or 20 minutes.  We also dip back into our anatomy slides often as we teach established clients, pulling out the pictures to go over the details more clearly – we’re a visual culture and seeing what’s inside really helps most folks. 



Your Path to Pilates 101. 

Your Pilates 101 can come much more quickly than mine if you are content to go strictly with what you know today and let the rest unfold and develop as you continue to learn.

The only unequivocal element of your uniquely successful Pilates 101 is that it be true to yourself, your style, your wisdom, your spirit. 

Don’t you dare worry about technology – I mean it!  It’s there to help you, not freak you out!  If you don’t have the required computer skills to set it up in PowerPoint, simply photocopy pertinent pages from any book you’re referencing and flip through the photocopies with your client sitting by your side – low tech is beautiful!

And I know, no matter what you think about your ability to come up with the right thing to say, once you know the gist of it, the words will come and they’ll perfectly articulate your unique abilities as a teacher. 

Suggested Pilates 101 Basics. 

Here are the basics of what it should, at a minimum, include and I’ve found, after a whole lot of switch-a-roo-ing, this order seems to most closely follow most clients’ mental path through the information.

  1. Introduction – a bit about Joe & Clara, the industry being unregulated, your training and general philosophy of teaching.  In my Pilates 101, this takes about 1 – 2 minutes.
  2. Anatomy of Pilates – show pictures of the Powerhouse muscles (transversus, multifidi, primary hip flexors, diaphragm, pelvic floor), explain briefly how they work, how to engage them, their role in structural stability, strength, physical health and performance.  You can tailor this part of the lecture to each client’s specific goals.  Demonstrate on your own body the engagement of the transversus and multifidus, do some knee floats and stirs the right and wrong way to show the proper and smooth deployment of the hip flexors and you can also easily demonstrate the Pilates open chain principle of body weight against gravity =  resistance.  It’s show and tell!  In my Pilates 101, this takes 6 – 8 minutes.
  3. What to expect from a dedicated Pilates practice – make sure you explain that Pilates is not a substitute for cardio, strength or endurance training.  Discuss frequency so their expectations are in line with what we know as being possible.  In my Pilates 101, this takes 1 – 2 minutes.

Speaker Beware! 

As all good teachers know, you are responsible for how you’re heard and that is never more important than at the beginning of relationships.  If you do not yet truly understand the work and/or you’re not yet an accomplished speaker beyond the parroting style most primary training programs out of necessity encourage (because they’re too big, too busy, too impersonal), it’s best for your ego and self esteem to percolate a while on your Pilates 101 before subjecting yourself to what will be certain failure. 

Do not overload.  Pilates 101 should not result in glazing.  With every word out of your Pilates 101 mouth, make sure your cilent is with you and ready for what’s next.  Make sure you ask all along the way if what you’re saying is making sense to them and if they have any questions.

Your very own Pilates 101 is on the way!!

Tom, you’ve got an interesting project ahead of you and I know you can do it.  Make a schedule to work on it over the next couple of weeks, practice with friends and supportive clients to work out the kinks and before you know it, you’ll be super comfortable with it.  Best of all, your clients will be well prepared for what to expect from the work and the way you teach it, your book will be more stable and the world will be a better place.  The Pilates world, at least, which is saying quite a lot.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.


Pilates 101 In Your Own Words | Originally Published February 16, 2007

Brain Science & You & Me

What used to be my screened porch is now a real 4-season room, and I’ve moved my office and art studio into it, and my new “Sun Room” is so big that I was finally able to move my library out of storage and arrange it neatly at my fingertips.  Talk about luxury!

In going through one of my favorite books, containing all my treasured correspondence with my figure skaters, I found this.


Holly Larson Letter.Brain Science


Laura Harris’ mom told me to write to Laura and tell her this story, and to be sure to give her Holly’s info.  As soon as Laura Harris received this letter, she got in touch, and because she is such a “giver,” she gave Holly and her family the gift of a weekend at Campbell’s.

Holly recovered fully, although it took years.

I’m still in touch with Holly, her sister Hayley and her mother Doris, we were all Facebook friends right up until I left Facebook and now that I’m Facebook-free, they know right where to find me if they ever want to talk, Skype hang or visit.

Moral of the story: be guided by your genuine interest in others, ask a ton of questions, help everyone you can, any way you can, and the more you learn about how our brains work, the more powerful your help will be.  And don’t worry about typographical errors, unimportant things like that will never mess with your flow.

If you’d like to learn more about the research based on the effectiveness of living and working this way – of being a “smart giver” like me – read this:

Cover of Give and Take by Adam Grant



Have questions or need help?

I’m right here.

+1 206 963 0755

[email protected]

Brain Science & You & Me

The Opportunity of Tragedy

There’s no shortage of tragedy in today’s world and, sometimes, tragedy comes and gets us right where we live, it comes into our lives, and it can shatter our hearts, it can make us afraid, bitter, mean or detached.

Here’s a blueprint for a way to transmute tragedy into peace, strength and confidence.

Listen to this to learn about how my childhood friend, Ann Hounchell, informs my every day life, and especially my work.




And yes, that’s me in the back row over Ann’s right shoulder.


Questions or need help?

I’m right here.

M: +1 206 963 0755

[email protected]

The Opportunity of Tragedy

Change Your Best

I love studying the philosophy, technique and progress of anybody, from any walk of life, who manages to make impressive positive change.  I study the leaders of the world’s most progressive, problem-solving, innovative companies, I study the managers and coaches who assemble, lead and motivate the world’s most winning teams, and I study psychology as it pertains to the architecture of change.  I use in my own work absolutely everything I learn from studying the methods of the world’s most successful, accomplishes and productive professionals.

As an example, here’s a great piece from Western Michigan Head Football Coach P.J. Fleck’s from the Players’ Tribune, an online publication that I spend a whole bunch of time reading, and learning from.

Here’s my favorite quote from the P.J. Fleck piece:

“You have to look inward and challenge yourself to change your best — to truly go beyond the limits of what you think you’re capable of — every day, and not just when it comes to football, but also academics, your social life and your spiritual life.”

Read the pice and you’ll see that he’s talking about perpetually achieving excellence in life, and this exact strategy – changing your best – is what I teach conceptually in my Gap Filler course, and what I teach thoroughly and through implementation in my REVAMP | Professional Ascent Mentorship course.

Most people find “Changing Your Best” tremendously uncomfortable – that’s why it’s so lonely at the tippy top of any discipline or industry.  Those who can occasionally “change their best” often have trouble sustaining the willingness – which I promise eventually becomes actual eagerness – that it takes to put everything on the line, every interaction, every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year.

Like with any relationship, it’s the relentlessness that’ll buckle everyone but the most seriously and wisely committed, and in the context of “Changing Your Best” the relentlessness is between you and what you’re trying to accomplish, versus the entirely of the rest of the world.

The relentlessness hides in plain sight in the form of your responsibility that everything you do – every conversation you have, every interaction you are part of, every work product you produce, every fucking thing you do – demonstrates exactly the type of relationship you have with success, how you handle accountability, and the bounds of your self esteem and personal integrity.  Regardless of the domaine, that’s what you’re really showing others by how you work, how you talk, how you move, how you behave, how you operate.

That’s why true excellence is so rare.

That’s why most people don’t follow through.

That’s why the world is full of mediocrity, get-along-go-along, good enough type results.

If you’d like to learn how to Change Your Best, bring unbridled ambition, a spirit too high to be concerned by the craziness of the world around you, and a desire to push yourself beyond any limits you currently recognize, and I’ll take care of the rest.  I promise.


Questions?  I’m right here.

M: +206 963 0755

[email protected]




Change Your Best

The World Series & You

Tomorrow night in Game 2 of the World Series, Trevor Bauer is pitching for the Cleveland Indians.  I first read about Trevor in Sports Illustrated back in 2011.  He developed his pitches by exploiting the brain science of batting.

Tevor Bauer Alchetron Site

“I’m very passionate about my craft and I’ve always been into science and discovery and all that stuff, so I’m always trying to find a way to get better from season to season. And throwing more pitches is a way that I’ve found to…. The more pitches that I have, that have different speeds and move differently, the more confusion it creates for the hitter. And if I throw all of them out of the same tunnel and make them look the same though 20 feet of flight … obviously, I’m going to be a lot tougher to hit.”

It’s within that “20 feet of flight” that batters have to decide if they’re going to swing and Trevor, exploiting the brain science of his opponents, has designed all of his many pitches to travel that same 20 foot wheelhouse strike tunnel.

What’s that got to do with being a problem solving movement teacher?

Exploiting brain science is available to everyone, not just professional athletes like Trevor.

If you’ve Gap Filled with me, you already know about athletes like Trevor, and you already know why my work is so startlingly effective.

If you haven’t and don’t, read the SI article, and once you get comfortable with the idea that brain science is behind everything we do and say and feel, and how we act and think, maybe read this one, too, to see how Trevor exploits the brain science of focus – which is explained at about the 8:30 mark in the linked video – in how he settles himself.


Exploiting brain science is exactly how I developed my pain-relieving/alignment/engagement protocols.  My protocols have been called a lot of things over the years – like many of Joe’s exercises, clients have named them – and for now, they’re most often referred to as “Doming, Elevator, Pelvic Ring & Cross Draw,” or sometimes “Leone Align & Solve.”

Here’s proof of the effectiveness of my protocols within a single session.



Here’s what those types of alignment changes look like on the inside.

Thoracic Straightening using Elevator


Lumbar straightening using Elevator



My work is based 100% on the exploitation of brain science, my work is full of the work of Mihaly Cssikszentmihaly, and if you want to take the most direct, powerful and effective approach to achieving change, lasting results, and solving any problem you or your clients are faced with, your work will be full of the exploitation of brain science, too.

Working any other way – especially the “monkey see, monkey do” way of movement/choreography-based demonstration and/or description – is woefully ineffective and, in the end, a waste of time.  I mean, how many clients do you have who still, no matter how many times you show them or explain it, can’t do what you’re trying to teach them to do?  Years of expensive and time consuming effort on the part of all involved are spent trying to learn something that, through the exploitation of brain science, can be accomplished in a few minutes time.

That’s precisely how I can teach clients to solve long standing pain and performance problems quickly, effectively and permanently.  Many videos of me doing just that are up on my video site.  Many who’ve observed me teaching my problem solving sessions have said it seems like “magic.”  It’s not magic, it’s brain science, and seeing the power of the unconscious brain come out of the recesses where it usually lurks and take over in the conscious world is a totally cool thing to witness.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you already knew what you were going to do, each session you teach, each problem you face?  Think how empowering, relaxing and down right fun that would be.  That’s exactly how I feel about my work, every session I teach, every problem I face.  I already know what I’m going to do.  I’m going to exploit the unconscious brain’s superior wisdom to solve it, to solve anything, to solve everything.  And with that, I’m free, I’m completely liberated from the rote, from the formulaic, from the circumstances and details of any given situation.  When you use the full resources of your unconscious brain’s super wisdom, nothing surprises you, nothing destabilizes you, nothing breaks you.



We’re infinitely more powerful than we realize.

Learning about brain science is imperative for all problem solving teachers.

Be like Trevor and exploit every possible advantage so you can be your best, and bring your best, to every client, every friend, every interaction, every single day.

Otherwise, what are you doing?  And why?

PS  Having learned about it from Trevor, I have and love using a Shoulder Tube wobble stick.  Buy it here.


The World Series & You