Inside the Pilates Studio: Benjamin Degenhardt

Inside the Pilates Studio: Benjamin Degenhardt

Benjamin Degenhardt

Benjamin Degenhardt wrote a wonderful article on his love of the Pilates Mat. I found it the day after this question popped up on Facebook:

What's your favorite piece of Pilates equipment?

Dismayed by some of the responses (most notably ‘the foam roller') you can imagine my joy when I read Benjamin's article on the Mat. It was a lovely serendipitous gift from the universe.

This guy was speaking my language.

As I continued to follow Benjamin online I was reminded of all kinds of cool stuff Joe Pilates said:

“One of the wonders of the world,” Joe Pilates says in an interview from 1961, “is that people give their wonderful, complex bodies less consideration than they show their automobiles. Cars can be replaced but your body is the only one you’ll have. Yet not one person in a thousand takes the time each day to see that it is properly exercised.”

This spring I met up with Benjamin when he was teaching in California. Sans Facebook?? Turns out he is as lovely in person as he is online. A brilliant combination of Pilates Nerd, historian and entrepreneur. The clear vision of his 360° Pilates continuing education program is inspiring.

I hope you enjoy this installation of Inside the Pilates Studio. Geek on more of Benjamin's articles here. You know you want to. 🙂

“In with the air and out with the air…”

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Benjamin Degenhardt: That would be The Hundred, without a doubt. It was love at first pump, and to this day I think it's an incredibly effective exercise. If done as described in Return To Life it is one of the best full-bodied movement, power, and strength assessments, all the while being a complete warm-up that activates all of the body's systems in 30 seconds. It's everything a good exercise should be – simple, but not easy.

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.

BD: I only dislike exercises that have no purpose, and I have yet to find such an exercise in Joe Pilates' repertoire! But if you are asking for an exercise that challenges every ounce of my strength and determination, that would be the Hip Circles on the Mat.

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

BD: As someone who constantly questions and reconsiders how we teach movement and how the Pilates repertoire relates to the human body, it continues to amaze me how far Joe was indeed ahead of his time. We have such a specific, in-depth understanding of each of the body's systems today, yet we struggle to turn that knowledge into a comprehensive view on human movement. Joe's work was absolutely holistic. What turns me on creatively and mentally is to connect the dots between modern movement science and the historical work – and to see how they don't conflict with each other. And on a physical level – borrowing a quote from an original student of Joe Pilates – I love “to let my body think through the exercises”; the sensation of being (completely immersed and fiercely present in) movement.

Inside the Pilates Studio: Benjamin Degenhardt4. What is your idea of earthly happiness?

BD: To have a healthy body, a sound mind, and lots of fun! Most importantly, to have someone to share my earthly happiness with.

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

BD: To lose my determination and willingness to learn new things, and the ability to adapt to whatever will happen in my life.

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

BD: Top of mind is “zest”. It perfectly summarizes the outcome of a regular Pilates practice. Yes, you get strong and flexible and all, but it's that spring in your step, the glow on your skin, and the smile on your face that a good movement practice is all about – “spontaneous zest and pleasure”, as Joe said.

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

BD: It's not a Pilates word, but I hear it all the time – “Hundreds”. It's only one hundred!

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

BD: I feel fortunate that my first career in dance has become such a great departure point for what I do now. I honestly can't imagine doing anything else, but if I ever was to leave the world of movement altogether, I would probably want to learn how to design and make clothes!

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?

BD: “Komm', lass uns bewegen.” (Translation: Come, let's move!”)

10. What did you learn today?

BD: To always take any important, irreplaceable items on board with you during air travel. I just arrived in Stockholm this morning and am still waiting for my bag – which holds my entire archival Pilates collection. I hope that in the meantime they are learning a thing or two from Joe's writings at Customs.

Benjamin DegenhardtBenjamin Degenhardt is the creator of 360° Pilates, a continuing education program designed to reconnect movement teachers of all training backgrounds with the original philosophy and guiding principles of Joe Pilates' work – with a keen eye on modern exercise science. He conducts historical research, writes articles for his website, and presents workshops around the world.



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