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Why Karen Lord wants to put the mat back in Pilates


New York PilatesIf you peek into Karen Lord’s chic Pilates studio on Duane Street in Tribeca, you’ll see eight reformers and five tower stations framed by white-washed, minimalist decor. But you’ll be missing a huge piece of the picture.

On the floor below, a larger room looks nearly empty when class is not in session, since it’s left wide open for clients’ mats.

“A lot of studios are moving away from mat Pilates, and I’m trying to move towards it,” says Lord, a petite blonde who made a name for herself working with elite private clients before opening the studio last year. “I’m working really hard to build a mat program because it’s come out of style a little bit.”

New York Pilates

She’s not wrong. In New York today, if someone says they do Pilates, it’s assumed they’re hopping on the chic and trendy reformer (or even a Megaformer) somewhere. While mat classes still exist, they tend to feel a little passe, and reminiscent of a dusty workout DVD your mom tried for a while before forgetting about it.

Lord is intent upon changing that, and bringing awareness back to how safe and effective Pilates can be with just, well, you.

“You learn the fundamentals of how to keep your body safe, and you can do it in a hotel room,” she says, referring her constantly traveling clients. “And it’s a tough, tough workout. You will never feel your abs like that anywhere else.”

New York Pilates

Whether she’ll be able to convince her clients, who are intrigued by the springs, straps, and cache that comes with the more complicated machinery, remains to be seen.

But Lord is used to being slightly on the outskirts of what people expect when it comes to Pilates. Rather than sticking completely to the classical doctrine, she believes updates are necessary as exercise science, attitudes, and workout preferences change.

“It’s a system of movements that needs to keep moving and progressing,” she says. “Pilates for a long time was so stringent that it kept a lot of people away. I’m bringing it into the now.” All you’ll need to pack to go along is a mat. —Lisa Elaine Held

Karen Lord Pilates, 137 Duane St., between W. Broadway and Church, Tribeca, New York, NY 10013, 917-388-2540, www.karenlordpilatesmovement.com

(Photos: Karen Lord Pilates)