This Stunning Photo Project Will Make You Rethink What a Pilates Body Looks Like

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IMG_0298Anula Maiberg sometimes surprises the students at her Pilates class. Not because the co-founder of downtown New York City's Sixth Street Pilates is covered in tattoos and has a head of bleached blonde hair, but rather because in this era of Instagram feeds hijacked by svelte fitness models who have mastered the selfie, the Israeli instructor's body just doesn't fit the stereotype.

“Sometimes new students come in and it takes a minute for them to adjust their perceptions,” Maiberg says, punctuating it with a laugh. "It motivates me to teach a better class.” With her soft curves and toned—but not chiseled—muscles, she has spent her fair share of time pondering her body shape. As an instructor, she says, there’s pressure to look a certain way and she doesn’t fit that mold. In fact, she still doesn’t consider herself a “fitness person,” as she puts it, but is so convinced of the transformative power of Pilates that she’s devoted her life to it (she co-owns her East Village studio with Jeremy Laverdure).

Maiberg recently had the chance to celebrate her love of the practice when she was invited to be a part of MarchMatness, a campaign launched by Pilates guru Benjamin Degenhardt. It spreads awareness around Joseph Pilates’ traditional mat exercise techniques by encouraging members of the Pilates community to post photos of poses from Pilates’ original book, Return to Life Through Contrology, on social media.

When she decided to do MarchMatness, Maiberg admits she freaked out—a lot of fitness celebrities participate and she knew she couldn’t (and didn’t want to) compete with all the carefully staged snaps that they were posting. But then she realized she could get creative and do something no one else was: post pictures of herself being, well, herself.

Maiberg teamed up with photographer friends Emily Johnston and Deneka Peniston to shoot her doing Pilates at the studio and in her home, wearing the outfits she loves and wears beyond just the studio (think vintage dresses and bold leggings). Maiberg wanted to show what Pilates looks like on a real person, in real life, and to prove that you don't have to have a stereotypically fit body to do it. “The photo project definitely made me feel more vulnerable,” she remembers. “I was afraid that all the comments would be 'Why is this fat girl doing Pilates?'"

But that never happened; instead, positive feedback started flooding in. “People on Facebook and the MarchMatness site left comments saying it was nice to see different shapes represented. Some people even said I made them realize that they could also do Pilates, and that it wasn’t only for skinny girls and ballerinas. It was worth the fear of being in the spotlight.”

Click ahead for a glimpse of Maiberg’s photography project and its rare subject: a non-model doing Pilates with a body that reminds us of our own. —Larkin Clark

To learn more about Maiberg and keep up with her ongoing photography projects, visit

(Photo: Emily Johnston)


ANULA.TROPICAL.2014.PRF-44"Our studio is really diverse," says Maiberg. "No class is cookie cutter–there’s a rainbow of body types and instructors. I hire differently shaped teachers, [or] they might have tattoos or colored hair."

(Photo: Deneka Peniston)



"People should know that there are places where the teachers are more interested in showing someone who doesn’t think they belong that they are capable of doing amazing things with their bodies," Maiberg explains. She adds, "Seeing the light bulb go off is really what makes our job inspiring."

(Photo: Emily Johnston)


ANULA.GEOMETRIC.2014.PRF-3"There are a lot of fitness celebrities and I can’t compete with [them]; that’s just not who I am," Maiberg says of what inspired her approach to capturing a Pilates instructor in action with her photo project.

(Photo: Deneka Peniston)


IMG_0298"The dress photos were shot in my actual room in my house," points out Maiberg. "I just tried on dresses and did the mat work."

(Photo: Emily Johnston)


ANULA.BW.2014.PRF-77"All the leggings are American Apparel. I like that their leggings are not necessarily for athleisure; you can pair these with an actual cute outfit."

(Photo: Deneka Peniston)


IMG_0323"I’m a pretty cerebral person, and Pilates made me realize that my body and mind are not so separate," explains Maiberg. "I felt more feminine in some ways, and more present inside of my body."

(Photo: Emily Johnston)


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Why New York City’s Pilates gurus say the time-tested workout is here to stay
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6 Pilates moves that will transform your whole body


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