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Book Reviews - Brooke Siler - The Pilates Body

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Amazon.com Reviewer Erica Jorgensen

Thin-but-fit supermodels like Amber Valletta and Shalom Harlow and actresses like Ally McBeal's Courtney Thorne-Smith and Liv Tyler swear by Pilates workouts to keep their figures toned and flexible. The Pilates Body is the latest in a string of books dedicated to this fitness program, which is now soaring in popularity nearly 100 years after it was first developed by Joseph Pilates in Germany in the early 1900s. While today's Pilates studios take advantage of patented and intimidating-looking equipment that costs thousands of dollars (and therefore charge accordingly for private sessions), each exercise in The Pilates Body can be performed with just an exercise mat. While all parts of the body are used in the exercises, the focus is on the abdominals, or "powerhouse," which support the back; this makes Pilates an ideal exercise for those with back problems--or those hoping to prevent them. Author Brooke Siler, who trained with Romana Kryzanowska, the oldest living protégé of Joseph Pilates, organizes her book impeccably. After discussing proper alignment and ways to modify the exercises for those with neck, knee, or lower back pain, she jumps right into the 60-plus exercises, which are divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. What differentiates Siler's book from the other Pilates titles is that she includes a disclaimer about the models: "The models in this book have been training in the Pilates method for years. Although their bodies may seem to represent an unrealistic ideal for many, they have worked hard to achieve their fitness goals. I hope in earnest that they do not intimidate but inspire." Also, each exercise is given a two-page spread of its own, and is accompanied by clear photographs and helpful graphics. For example, for the "inner-thigh lifts," there's an illustration suggesting that you imagine a stack of books on the lifting leg to help you increase resistance. Each exercise also includes what Siler calls "The Inside Scoop," or tips she's learned from training hundreds of clients. These include the main goal of the exercise; simple modifications for beginners; important keys to remember while doing the move; and no-nos to prevent injury. While it's important to concentrate and get the technique of each exercise down, Siler's book is perfect for anyone looking for a simple exercise program that promises results, requires a minimum of time, and can be done at home or while traveling.

A second review after using the book for over 6 months,
Reviewer: atmj (Rochester, NY USA), September 9, 2000

Phenomenal and most of all do-able. This Pilates book has the best explanations and illustrations of all the ones out there. I know, I was in the mall and I checked them out. I bought this book over 6 months ago, as I felt I needed more than just a regular workout on an elliptical machine. I wrote a review on it shortly after I started and I wanted to update that as a number of people have emailed me for more information. Some background. I'm 43, female and 25% overweight, not exactly your svelte exerciser, so I knew I needed a routine that wouldn't hurt but would would get results. I work in an office and nothing is worse than sitting at your desk all day aching from the previous day's exercises. I started as recommended with Modified beginner exercises, the seven basic exercises and did this for about 3 weeks. No pain but some tightness I could feel in my abdomen. As I became confident, I moved onto the regular beginner exercises. Basically, I used my ability to do the "hundred" as a measure of when I was able to move on. I could see my progress from day to day. It was really neat. I did the exercises at least 5 days/week. As time went on I added more exercises from the full program. One or two each week depending on if they were similar or really hard to do. Some were, some weren't. Still no pain. I am now doing almost all (over 95%) of all, but the advanced exercises at least 5 days/week along with my elliptical machine routine and some weight lifting for my arms. I don't have time, I make time. In my opinion, this is as important as paying my bills. In someways, this is just what I'm doing. One question, I have been asked is am I seeing muscle definition. The answer is definitely yes. I am still overweight. I'm working on that too (I've lost 25 pounds through just exercising), so I'm not seeing a washboard stomach, as the fat above the muscles are still obscuring them, but I can see definition of my ribs and hips, along with distinct muscles in between. This is nothing I've ever seen before, even in my skinny high school days. One interesting measure of how far I've gone is watching my teenage children trying to mock me doing the exercises. Both are slim and in good shape, but neither can dive in and do the intermediate exercises that I'm doing with the same ease I am. In fact they are shocked they can't do more than a couple repetitions. Not because it hurts so much, but because they have not build up the strength. That is another thing that I mentioned in my previous review, these exercises provide the feedback you need to continue on. You see it in each day in each exercise as they become easier. Also you see it in your day to day tasks. For me, it was an excellent investment.

Best book I've seen on Pilates -- Incredible, Warm, Thorough,
Reviewer: "eibhinn" (ON Broadway! - not really, In Canada) - May 11, 2000

I've been interested in Pilates for a long time, but don't live anywhere near a trainer (and couldn't afford it anyway) I read article after article until I finally purchased Sean P. Gallagher's book on Pilates. I was so disappointed. There was so much to concentrate on for each exercise, and so many to go through. And no matter what I did it meant purchasing expensive equipment within a few weeks (thousands of dollars worth...) I tried for a few days and then gave up in disgust. Then I read a review for "The Pilates Body." What can I say, everything that has been said is true! Siler recommends taking all the time you need to learn the movements, she provides modified exercises for beginners to build up to the actual exercises and she gives a much more indepth account of Pilates system than I've ever seen before. The information on visualization and the mental aspect of a workout is not present in any other materials I have seen. There is no strict program provided (a plus or bonus depending on how you look at it...) instead the reader is encouraged to progress at their own pace, not moving on until they have the previous movements down. Finally, instead of trying to sell the expensive equipment, Siler is the ONLY Pilates trainer I've EVER seen who says that the original system never had equipment, and that the matwork alone can give a complete workout. I now have confidence in my ability to perform the exercises properly and effectively (though it'll take a long time, I think it will be worth it) This has become one of my favorite books, it is so well written and effective, and most of all Warm and friendly.

The Bible for Pilates Classical Matwork Devotees...
Reviewer: John Gohde (Richmond, VA) - See all my reviewsAugust 23, 2005

This book is invaluable for anyone already sold on the value of doing Pilates classical matwork correctly. This book is "the" modern version of the Bible for devotees of classical matwork. And, serves as an excellent adjunct to video workouts. The main part of the book is the detailed description of a long sequence of 34 exercises on the mat, as taught by Joseph Pilates. The book classifies each of these exercises as either beginner, intermediate, or advanced moves. This makes mastering classical matwork, which is physically demanding even for ballet dancers, more manageable. One valuable feature of the book is where thumbnail photographs of all the 34 exercises are provided on one page. This clearly shows that all of Joseph Pilates original matwork exercises work "powerhouse" muscles. In addition, the book also includes photographs of Joseph Pilates at various ages who obviously never suffered from skinny legs, nor ever had that skinny frail look so characteristic of old age, even at 82 years of age. That is the promise of Pilates classical matwork: the long muscular look of a dancer, even in old age.

Just what I wanted...
Reviewer: Rose L. Geiger - August 15, 2005

This book told me exactly what I wanted to know about the Pilates' exercises.

Great for Post-Partum...
Reviewer: Brenna E. Arthur "calendria" (anchorage, AK) - August 1, 2005

This is what I've done for Post-Partum for both pregnancies. After I delivered my twins, around 3 weeks or so later I started by doing the hundreds. My stomach muscles were really split. Within weeks from doing the hundred and other exercise, I noticed my stomach muscles came together. My legs are becoming more toned. Because of a caesarean with the loss of skin elasticity, my stomach has become less sagy and has bounced back. Right now my babies are only 3.5 months old, but I do notice my waist is small, so are my hips. One skirt that was tight during pregnancy is always slipping.

Excellent guide to Pilates principles and practice...
Reviewer: Dr Beth T Cholette "doctor_beth" (Upstate NY USA) - July 19, 2005

Prior to receiving this book as a gift, I had never done Pilates, but I had read about the method and was intrigued by it. Author Brooke Siler writes in a straightforward manner; she provides important and helpful information without overdoing it. She begins with a brief discussion of the origins of the Pilates method as a means to explain the value of this technique; she then goes on to describe the most important components of the Pilates philosophy and reviews in practical terms how these apply to the exercises. For example, she thoroughly explains the concept of the "powerhouse," the band of muscles which form a belt around the abdomen and back and which serve as the foundation for Pilates practice. With respect to the exercises themselves, Siler is detailed and meticulous. She carefully describes each exercise using easy-to-understand metaphors (eg, imagining your midsection is sewn to the ground or your arms are held down with weights) exceptional graphics, and clear photographic illustrations of student models. With respect to the three models, each one is specifically designated to portray either the beginner, intermediate, or advanced moves, which helps make the exercise levels extremely easy to follow. Furthermore, Siler provides outstanding information on how Pilates students can build their routine from the beginning to more advanced levels of practice. As mentioned, each exercise is clearly marked for the appropriate level, and Siler explains how to start with a modified beginner series of moves and then to add new exercises gradually as appropriate. At the end of the book, Siler includes some additional moves that are not part of the traditional Pilates matwork series, including the standing arm series. The book includes photographs of Joseph Pilates, inventor and founder of the Pilates method, at various ages to further highlight the benefit of this exercise technique. It is also important to note that Siler was trained by Romana Kryzanowska, who was chosen by Joseph Pilates and his wife to be their successor; this means that Siler's book follows the authentic exercises and sequencing patterns taught by Pilates himself many years ago. As an instructor, Siler has a very down-to-earth, non-intimidating manner; she is warm, supportive, encouraging, and enthusiastic, qualities which shine through the pages of her book. Now that I'm more experienced with the Pilates method via classes and videos, I've come to appreciate this book even more, as I have found that it gave me a solid foundation in the Pilates technique-when I tried classes and videos for the first time, I found that I already knew exactly how to perform each exercise correctly. The book serves as an excellent adjunct to video workouts, as no where else will you find such thorough and detailed information on form as Siler provides here, and I still return to the book frequently for reminders and tips. Highly recommended for both beginning and more experienced Pilates practitioners!