Inside the Pilates Studio: Alycea Ungaro
Alycea Ungaro is simply one of the best known Pilates instructors in the world. She is also a ridiculously impressive business person. She has built her Pilates studio into a media empire that includes numerous books, Pilates apps lauded by The New York Times and even a mat to better your alignment. Whew!
I catch a gem or two just from subscribing to her newsletter.
Nearly a decade ago at the Pilates Method Alliance conference, Alycea and colleague Peter Fiasca spoke fondly of their longtime teacher, the legendary Romana Kryzanowska. I had not yet met Romana and was eager to learn more about her and the true work of Joe Pilates.
Through Alycea I got even more juicy tidbits of Romana’s wonderful teaching:
- The Pilates workout is described as “a golden chain of movement”
- “The apparatus is your partner.”
- “The Pilates exercises transform functional movement into artistry.”
- “See your entire workout as a harmonious composition that reaches a higher level of artistry as a whole.”
- “Fall in love with yourself.”
and a quote from Romana I simply adore:
“If you are true to Pilates, Pilates will be true to you.”
Save the Date!
Alycea is the latest addition to the lineup of presenters at next year’s Classical Pilates Convention in Surrey UK. I’ll be attending again and thrilled that I’ll get to meet Alycea Ungaro officially.
And hopefully soak up some mojo.
Alycea Ungaro: My favorite Pilates exercise is the Mermaid. It embodies the grace and elegance of the method. It demonstrates the marriage of muscles held in a tightly packed position with muscles positioned in a fully elongated position. It can be slow, fast, dynamic, liquid, hard or easy but it is always beautiful to watch. I feel that way about most Pilates moves.
2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.
AU: My least favorite exercise used to be the Stomach Massage but now having reinvented it for myself and my students I quite love it. I don’t have a least favorite move but I will say that I find Side Splits to be personally very humbling.
3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?
AU: I believe the gift of Pilates is its unique ability to evolve even if your list of exercises remain static. The process of continually deconstructing and reinventing each move in my practice is for me the most fulfilling aspect of the method. It is simultaneously wonderfully complex and utterly simple and in between those two levels there are hundreds of layers just waiting to be discovered. What turns me on is knowing that for each student those layers are unique to that individual.
4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?
AU: Completely sensory experiences. The 5 simple senses which in many ways define our humanity and the expression of those senses. The feel of a cool breeze on a hot day. The view of the sunset over the ocean. The smell of my children’s hair after a tumble in the grass.
5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?
AU: To my mind the greatest misfortune would be to lose a child. As it relates to wellness, however, I think the greatest misfortune would be to lose the child within you. And therefore, be unable to enjoy the gift of movement and the delightful sensation of simply breathing.
6. What is your favorite Pilates word?
7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?
AU: Navel. I’ve always felt this word to be somewhat superficial. As though it only suggests the skin around the navel area and not the deep musculature we are trying to access with the phrase “navel to spine.” But that’s probably just me.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
AU: Advertising and Graphic Design are thrilling to me. I find it fascinating that you can influence an entire culture by the design of certain key products or the message of certain brands. I spend hours in drug stores – examining each product for the context and design and imagining what the inventors meant to sell and if they were successful.
9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you?
AU: “I like the way you think.”
10. What did you learn today?
AU: Today I learned that I am still an amateur. Someone explained to me that the definition of amateur is someone who loves what they do. I feel incredibly lucky and if all goes well I plan to stay an amateur forever.
When Alycea Ungaro is not traveling the world presenting workshops, find her at her NYC home, Real Pilates, realpilatesnyc.com.