Sonje Mayo Interview Part 1

Sonjé Mayo on Joe Pilates – Part 1

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It's not often you get to meet someone who spent time with both Joseph and Clara Pilates, which is why we are thrilled to bring you this interview with Sonjé Mayo. In 1965 at age 21, Sonjé came to New York from South Africa and met Joseph Pilates at a dance conditioning class at Jacob's Pillow. At the time, she was in her final year studying to become a physical therapist and what she learned from Joe completely revolutionized the way she approached the body from then on. In Part 1 of our 3 part interview, Sonjé shares vivid stories of meeting Joe, from Martha Graham telling her she must go to Pilates, to her first impression of Joe's perfect posture and emphysemic chest. You'll hear details about why Joe spoke German with Sonjé and how he allowed no excuses despite her extra long legs and weak center. Sonjé even demonstrates for us the way that Joe taught her exercises like Spine Stretch Forward and the Roll Down. You can find the rest of this interview here: Part 2, Part 3. Sonjé now lives in Nashville, Tennessee where she teaches Pilates to a lucky group of clients. Visit her website at:  

What Others Are Saying


  1. Oriane
    Oriane 6 months ago

    How wonderful <3 <3 <3 Thank you!!!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonjé Mayo 6 months ago

      Thank YOU for watching! I am so eager to share it all!

  2. tracy 1 year ago

    Sonje you are gifted, and thank you for sharing what you know and love about the body and Pilates’!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 1 year ago

      Thank you Tracy. I am so grateful for what I learned and I will continue sharing as much as I cam\n!

      • Sonjé Mayo Author
        Sonje Mayo 1 year ago

        Sorry I meant “as much as I can”

  3. Moses Urbano

    Thank you Alisa and Sonje, I’m so Very Grateful for your timeless experience with Joe. I absolutely remember the same “non negotiable” from Romana in my apprenticeship!
    Much Love & Gratitude,

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 1 year ago

      My dear Moses, I do not know how I missed your comment.
      Thanks for watching the interview. In retrospect I realize that my factual recall was not that accurate (over 51 years ago).
      However my memory of Joe is unforgettable and will be with me forever……

  4. Bethanie Reidinger

    Just now watching this. This is exactly what I needed today after teaching some challenging “tuckers”. What a wonderful woman! I love her energy. Watching the other interviews immediately. Thanks for this and all you do!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Great Bethanie! I am so happy that this has been of help.

  5. Elizabeth Brown Meier

    Wow! What a lovely woman and so generous with sharing her knowlede and history with Joe. I especially love the clairity of the pelvis placement and the time Joe took in getting the corrections from his clients.
    Thank you so much. Can’t wait to try the mat workout she teaches.
    Bonus: She is a 4 hour drive away from me and my sister lives in Nashville!

    • Sonjé Mayo Author
      Sonje Mayo 3 years ago

      Thank you Elizabeth! I hope to see you at my studio in the near future????

  6. robertapilates 3 years ago

    Wow! Thank you all much for sharing so clearly

  7. LittleEngine 3 years ago

    This is such an amazing resource. Thank you SO much!!

  8. sjwalls 3 years ago

    Wow! So inspirational and wonderful to listen to. Thank you!

  9. brooke
    brooke 4 years ago

    This interview was so informative and inspiring. She’s just lovely as well, just a lovely human. All I could think about was wanting Pilatesology to host her to teach mat! And now I see she is, how incredible. The history is so special and important and THIS interview really helps clarify a long and arduous and continual debate between imprint and neutral. Phew.

  10. vlada_kor 4 years ago

    This is simply epic! I love it! Thank you so much for such inspirational, superb quality content Alisa & Jack!

  11. Jon Hawkins

    This was half an hour very well spent. Thank you for such a fantastic interview. I like to think I don’t tuck but I do. I love that there was the emphasis that things can take time in the body to change. Great demos of Spine Stretch Forward and Roll Up and SO hard to do them as Joe would have approved. Looking forward to watching parts 2 and 3 and seeing more of Sonjé.

  12. Jeri_McD 4 years ago

    I am incredibly inspired by this interview! My youngest daughter was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, because my husband’s job moved us there for 2 years during the late 1980’s. I am a comprehensively certified Balanced Body instructor, I am lordotic, I am constantly managing my low back pain. Based on what I just watched and learned from Sonje, I have been teaching the roll up and spine stretch forward incorrectly for years ~ aargh! But I am so excited for myself and my clients to have this new information!!
    : side bar: Where did Sonje get those awesome pants!?

  13. bmbpilates

    So fantastic to hear her stories and her experiences! She’s absolutely lovely!

  14. Alisa Wyatt

    Hi Everyone, I wanted to let you all know that we have booked a date for Sonje to visit us and film a workshop and mat classes! The dates are Thurs June 15 & Fri June 16th at our studio in Hermosa Beach. If you’re interested in attending the workshop, please send an email to: with Sonje Workshop in the subject. Thank you for your wonderful comments, we are thrilled to be able to bring you more Sonje!

  15. VERONICA MURIEL 4 years ago

    GREAT¡¡¡ Thank you so much for teaching your knowledge to us¡¡¡

  16. hadrianus

    How woderful ! Thank you so much.

  17. Gaia Faggiani
    gaia 4 years ago

    A fabulous blend of pearls of knowledge and simplicity on explanation! Alisa and Jack thank you! Can’t wait for a mat class from Sonje here on Pilatesology!

  18. Julie Winters
    Wintersjuju 4 years ago

    I just learned so much! Great interview!

  19. plessenberry

    I consider meeting her and training with her one of the pivotal events not just in my Pilates training, but in my life. She is a consummate professional and a mentor in every way. What a fabulous woman!

  20. Alisa Wyatt

    Thank you all for your comments! We’re hoping to bring you Sonje teaching mat class next!

  21. Kathi Ross Nash

    As amazing as Sonje is in this- she is even more incredible in person! Thank you Alisa for this interview and thank you Sonje for sharing sooo much!!!

    • Kathi Ross Nash

      students did you notice that she said about Joe stopping and taking them directly over to the other equipment in the Studio and off the Mat and Reformer to work on the exercise ????????? And about the tuck??????? and the lift! I am SOOOOO happy!!!!!

  22. Holly Quaglia Wells 4 years ago

    So wonderful! I can’t get enough of these fantastic interviews! Thank you a million times over!


    So great! Thank you!

  24. Sheckie71 4 years ago

    Loved this! What excellent information and so clearly explained by Sonje

  25. AnnaDZullo 4 years ago

    Absolutely wonderful!!!!
    Thank you!!

  26. blspilates 4 years ago

    This is terrific!! And beautifully done, and so much to learn from Sonje! Thanks you!!

  27. This is a gem. I am going to watch part 2 right now.

  28. pilatesangel 4 years ago

    I share in the enthusiasm here. What a lovely lady and fun stories! Pretty pumped to hear she’s only a few hours away from me. Time to unpack my cowboy boots and roadtrip!

  29. Martin 4 years ago

    Alisa & Jack, this amazing! So incredible to watch and learn so much. I love all the workouts, but there’s a very special place in my heart for this kind of content as a Pilates history nerd. I hope there are more like this coming down the pipeline!

  30. Kerry 4 years ago

    What a fantastic story and a lovely gracious lady! Thank you!!

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