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Daniela Mazal Of Old School Pilates On How Pilates Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing

Uncategorized Mar 20, 2023

An Interview With Maria Angelova

Pilates is not for the faint of heart or the quick fix sekee. As one of my dear students told me the other day, Pilates is the only workout that keeps getting harder the “better” you get at it. It challenges us to dig deeper, to set new goals, to continuously expand our perspective on what is possible.

Pilates was invented around 100 years ago, and it is becoming an increasingly popular form of exercise. What exactly is Pilates? How is it different from other modalities like Yoga or Tai Chi? What are the benefits of Pilates? Who can most benefit from it? In this interview series, we are talking to Pilates professionals & practitioners who can talk about how Pilates can improve your health and wellbeing. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Daniela Mazal.

Daniela is the CEO and Founder of Old School Pilates and The #MomBodChronicles. She is a 2nd generation Pilates teacher currently pursuing her Master’s of Science in Kinesiology. Her current research interest is the effect of Pilates on cognitive function and executive functioning in pre and postnatal women.

Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Iam a lifelong mover and a shaker, and I am on a mission to make Pilates accessible for all, both as a career and as a practice.

I have over 15 years’ experience teaching movement to people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life.

The discipline of Pilates has taught me purpose and focus of body and mind. Through consistent practice I have learned strength, confidence, and grace that have served me in many demanding moments in life, including a 60 hour labor during the birth of my son, managing my mom’s end of life care during her valiant battle with lung cancer, and now balancing #momlife , #CEOlife , and grad school. You can follow my story and how Pilates serves my daily life through my blog #themombodchronicles.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

We cannot teach Pilates, we can only guide people to find it themselves.

-Jay Grimes

To be completely honest, when I first heard Jay say this many years ago, I scoffed. At the time, I was finishing up my degree in Kinesiology and had spent the better part of the past two years using my Pilates students as lab rats for every new concept I learned in school.

If I had a biomechanics exam that week, I would spend my classes cuing antagonistic recruitment of the hamstrings to prevent hyperextension.

If I had an anatomy exam, I would accost my poor students with every muscle in their body by name through the probably excruciating 55 minutes they spent with me.

I even spent the better half of one class explaining how proprioceptive feedback loops can be used to trick our body to gain more flexibility. Do you know what I got in response, glazed over looks and probably a few people that never came back to my class.

Sadly, for my student’s sake, this didn’t stop when I graduated college. As a lifelong learner, I was always taking workshops and trainings, expanding my knowledge, and then forcing it upon my poor unsuspecting students.

“Let me show you how smart I am” I may as well have started every class yelling, because that was basically what my goal was in teaching. To prove my worth, to validate the expense of time and money spent on countless workshops and trainings.

After many years of soul searching, I finally realized it wasn’t my students I was trying to prove myself to, it was to myself.

It wasn’t until I started to find my confidence and understanding of who I am as a person and teacher that I was finally able to share my practice in a way that started to resonate with my students. Because I stopped trying to FORCE my knowledge on others and therefore, I was able to hold space for them to actually learn something.

The first time I took class with Jay Grimes, I was petrified to say the least. Vintage Pilates was a place like no other.

You would enter the room and the energy was palpable. Warm and inviting but incredibly focused. You could tell everyone there was there to work. Any chit chat happened in soft voices, away from the equipment. There were always students seated against the walls, observing in silence.

I got down on the reformer and started my footwork. I began going through my checklist in my brain of things I had to think about.

“Ok…Long neck,

look straight ahead,

open your chest,

reach your arms long, no not that long now your hyper extending your elbows, a little softer,

oh, now you lost the chest, open your chest,

ribs in, stomach in,

long back, inner thighs,

oh, lost the long back, more stomach, more stomach,

inner thighs,

heels together, keep the high heels

press the carriage out and don’t lose it all,

shit I’m on 4 springs, this is heavy, well I can’t lose all the work I just did I’ll just muscle through it…”

Uh oh…I realize Jay is staring at me. I stare back at him, petrified.

“This is your warm-up, it has to move!” He says and then walks away.

Yikes! Immediately I start moving. I stop thinking and I start moving.

I finished the entire reformer during the class AND have time to do the foot corrector at the end. Literally, I had never gotten through the full reformer in one sitting ever before in my life, and I got through it in 45 minutes!

I left class invigorated. I started doing a 1 rep mat daily to remind myself that I teach exercise and the point is to move and that had to start with myself. I was teaching the way I was practicing, excruciatingly slowly and focusing on everything BUT the actual point, which is to Move, to sweat, and to feel great afterwards.

NOT to know where my fibula is, or to do a 50 point check every time I get down on the mat or reformer, or to spend 20 minuets on lateral thoracic breathing that I and my students are going to forget about 20 seconds later.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?




I believe this story encompasses all 3:

“Kill your darlings” is a common piece of advice given by experienced writers. You kill your darlings when you decide to get rid of an unnecessary storyline, character, or sentences in a piece of creative writing — elements you may have worked hard to create but that must be removed for the sake of your overall story.

So, my husband would call this one a quit, I call it a reinvention.

I opened my Pilates studio in 2018 and had immediate success. I personally made 6 figures my first year in business and I worked my ass off to do it. During the pandemic, I truly thrived. I transitioned a great deal of my clientele online enabling me to move across the country to be sole caregiver to my dying mother, found out I was pregnant and then after my mom died moved back across the country to buy a house, general contract the renovations on my house and move in all before giving birth to my son. We then reopened our doors to in person clients achieving the success of surviving the pandemic for 6 months before deciding I wanted a change.

During this insane period of transition and transformation in my personal life, my values and desires for my business shifted. We bought a home far away from the studio and despite many challenges, I worked tirelessly and relentlessly to successfully breastfeed my son. I wanted to be home with him for the foreseeable future. Now I wanted to continue my work, to run my studio, and to educate Pilates teachers. BUT I wanted to do it on my own terms and in my own home.

We renovated our garage to a fully equipped operational studio and I continue to thrive in the online space. My husband handled his grief of letting go of our commercial space that to him felt like the business. I however took a giant breath of fresh air and moved forward with the heart and soul of where I knew the business truly lived.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I am working on an incredibly exciting project now. I am going through the process of (hopefully) gaining ethical approval for a randomized control trial on the effects of Pilates on Cognitive Function in Pre and Postnatal women.

My experience with mom brain has been rough to say the least. I also had an unacceptable experience in regard to the way I was treated in the hospital during the birth of my son as well as a lack of care during my postpartum period that led to a severe blood clot and hemorrhage that landed me in the hospital a week after giving birth, and a multi organ prolapse that I am still working to heal 18 months later.

I know that I am not alone in my experiences and being the research minded person that I am, I needed to find out what research is out there on the postpartum period and if there was any validation for my personal experience with how beneficial exercise, especially Pilates, has been for my healing.

What I found was that the research is positive, but very limited. I want to conduct ethical and impactful research that will bring a voice to this population and validate their experiences.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about Pilates. To begin, can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority on the topic of Pilates?

I am a 2nd generation Certified Pilates Instructor (meaning I have studied under a teacher who has studied under Joseph Pilates). I have been teaching Pilates for 10 years. My students include medical doctors, physical therapists, school psychologists, CEOs, celebrities, and fellow moms. All agree that Pilates has transformed their lives through both physical and mental strength.

Let’s start with a basic definition so that we are all on the same page. What exactly is Pilates?

Pilates is a system of corrective exercise. It is a fantastic habit training tool for centering, strengthening, and fostering discipline and autonomy — both in and out of the studio. Pilates teaches us strength and flexibility of mind and body.

How is Pilates different from other movement modalities that you have practiced?

Pilates, like Yoga and Tai Chi, is a mind-body practice. However, Yoga and Tai Chi have a spiritual element to their practice. Pilates mind body connection is physiologically based, literally training the neural pathways between our brain and our movements.

Pilates is corrective exercise in nature and therefore lends itself well to correcting functional imbalances in the body, recovering from injury, and helping you to perform better in athletics and daily life. It is great for getting stronger, gaining mental strength, improving flexibility, toning your body, learning to be more disciplined, improving endurance, concentration, awareness and control of your body and movements.

On a personal level, what are the biggest benefits that you have gained from regular Pilates practice?

I would say the biggest unsung benefit I have gained from a regular Pilates practice is mental strength and discipline.

Who do you think can most benefit from Pilates?

Anyone and everyone! Pilates can absolutely fulfill all your exercise needs. It is also a great complement to other activities or modalities. It is corrective exercise and nature and truly makes you better at any type of sport or activity you love. Whether that be running marathons or running after your grandkids. The order on the mat and reformer are designed to be practiced in the same order with seamless transitions from one exercise to the next which lends itself to be a very effective cardio workout. That is of course in addition to the spring resistance training all of which builds strength, stamina and endurance and trains many different systems of the body.

However, anyone currently under the care of a doctor for an acute issue should get clearance from their medical team before starting ANY workout program. Since Pilates is corrective in nature, it lends itself well to injury recovery and rehabilitation, but it is always going to be first and foremost a full body workout. Imbalances, asymmetries and other issues tend to resolve themselves through Pilates because we approach individual needs holistically. However, I ALWAYS work with my students’ medical team when addressing health conditions or injuries and always refer out when an issue is outside my scope of practice.

Pilates can sometimes be expensive. Can you share with our readers your perspectives on why Pilates is worth its costs?

So, the reality is, you can find cheaper Pilates based fitness, even on equipment elsewhere if that is what is important to you.

However, when taught correctly, Pilates is an investment in your health that you will continue to benefit from for years to come. At Old School Pilates you will receive the benefit of my lifelong learning, and a personalized workout plan that truly sets you up for a lifetime of success. Pilates does not just change your body; it changes your perspective on life. Over my 20 years’ experience, I have clocked thousands of training hours in Pilates and other movement modalities, a degree in Exercise Science, I am currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Kinesiology because I don’t just believe Pilates is effective, I will share the research that proves it. My methods are evidence based and tried and true for generations.

Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Ways That Pilates Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing”?

  1. Pilates does not just change your body, but your entire perspective on life.

Pilates is not for the faint of heart or the quick fix sekee. As one of my dear students told me the other day, Pilates is the only workout that keeps getting harder the “better” you get at it. It challenges us to dig deeper, to set new goals, to continuously expand our perspective on what is possible.

2. Pilates is the only workout you need!

Pilates will always be taught as a full body workout. The first things to learn are Proper postural alignment, complete use of breath, and complete control of your movements. In terms of duration, something will always be better than nothing. The best workout for you is the one you will stick with! If that means you have 5 minutes, great, eventually work up to 30minutes to maybe an hour.

Pilates can aid in increased flexibility and strength, improved focus and awareness, and improved circulation. Pilates is corrective exercise in nature and is truly designed to address the individual needs of every student that comes through our doors. There is a piece of equipment (called apparatus) to address every nook and cranny of our body from our head (the neck stretcher) to our toes (the toe corrector), our insides (the breathasizer) and our outsides (Reformer/Cadilac/Mat etc).

Joseph Pilates has a famous saying, in 10 sessions you’ll feel a difference, in 20 you’ll see a difference, and in 30 you will have a whole new body, or your money back! That was for those that committed to a kickass sweaty hour-long session 3x/week.

Studies demonstrate that 150–300 minutes of moderate exercise per week is ideal. So, this could be 20–30 minutes per day, or 50 minutes 3x a week etc.

However, research also shows that it takes 66 days to build a habit. So, if you are looking to build a workout habit, or specifically a Pilates habit, be committed to giving it your all for a good few months to reap the benefits.

3. Pilates makes you better at everything else you do in life.

Pilates is a great complement to other activities and modalities. It is corrective exercise in nature and truly makes you better at any type of sport or activity you love. Whether that be running marathons or running after your grandkids. The order on the mat and reformer are designed to be practiced with seamless transitions from one exercise to the next which lends itself to be a very effective cardio workout to build endurance and stamina. That is of course in addition to the spring resistance training all of which builds strength, stamina and endurance and trains all of the different systems of the body. The concepts we learn through Pilates, body awareness, control, autonomy, proprioception, serve us in all aspects of our lives.

4. Pilates can be done anywhere and anytime!

The order on the mat and reformer is incredibly intentional and begin with exercises that warm the body up, get the blood flowing and circulation going. Each exercise in the order prepares the body for the next and this continues throughout the entire routine. This is what makes the mat routine such a wonderful workout that can truly be done anywhere any time.

5. Pilates can make you smarter!

Pilates does not only help us get stronger, it helps us gain mental strength. As we learn the discipline of Pilates, we become more disciplined. You may have heard that Pilates is a mind body practice, and, therefore. The exercises on the reformer and the mat are learned in a set order. This type of repetition in exercise is scientifically proven to increase confidence, improve speed, and strengthen the connections in the brain that help us learn new skills. It transitions these skills from the conscious to the subconscious. This subconscious ability to flow through the exercises teaches us autonomy which aids in building an exercise habit and aids in autonomy in all other aspects of our lives.

In my own Pilates practice, I stress the importance of precision in Pilates. Based on your experiences and research, what are your thoughts about why precision is important in Pilates?

I will define precision in terms of accuracy, quality and control of movement. Here is an example of why this is important. We will all fall at some point in our lives, most of us have had experiences falling. In a moment where we lose control, like falling, we want to be able to trust our body to snap into action and protect us. By training precision in proprioception and control of our movements in the studio, we are training our brains to recognize how far away we are from the world around us and what reaction time is required in real life situations like a fall.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Knowledge is power. I want to arm my fellow moms with the knowledge and understanding of the amazing bodies we live in, and how to protect, nurture, advocate, and care for ourselves in a sustainable way.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

You can find me on instagram: @mombodchronicle

Or my website oldschoolpilates.com

Or my blog oldschoolpilates.com/blog

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success. 

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at [email protected].

Source : https://medium.com/authority-magazine/daniela-mazal-of-old-school-pilates-on-how-pilates-can-improve-your-health-and-wellbeing-68c6a1dbccbd


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