Pilates Levels Guide

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Levels Guide

What exactly does “Level 2” or “Level 3” mean in Pilates, anyway? How can we differentiate between levels? How do we know what level we’re practicing?

Joe Pilates didn’t actually break up his work into levels. But he ran his studio in a very different time. There were no such thing as “group classes” or differing styles of Pilates. There were no Pilates Certification programs or schools. But things are different now. Studios differ vastly in their approach to the work, movement philosophies, and teaching styles. Especially when working in a group Pilates setting, it’s important to keep people working on a consistent level–this ensures safety, sets clear expectations, keeps the class moving at the appropriate pace, and helps clients continually advance their Pilates practice.

At MVP, our teachers don’t all come from the same teacher training program. We feature teachers from a diverse array of Pilates backgrounds and training programs. We value this diversity; it enriches our work and broadens our perspectives.

Although we may teach different variations of exercises, we’re all committed to high-quality movement and the Pilates principles of whole body movement, breath, balanced muscle development, concentration, control, centering, rhythm, and precision.

So to keep classes moving and keep everyone safe, we have gotten REALLY SPECIFIC about levels within our studio.

Our teachers all use the following criteria to define working levels at MVP. 

This is meant to be used as a general guide, not a hard-and-fast rule book. These levels apply to privates, duets, and group classes…although privates and duets have more flexibility to mix levels. 

Introductory Level

These concepts should be learned through private sessions, or through an Introduction to Pilates series. Clients who haven’t learned these concepts should not take group classes.

  • Brand-new Pilates practitioners.
  • Are learning to stabilize before moving; are building control, awareness, and appropriate muscle recruitment
  • Understand the importance of breathing and are beginning to coordinate breath with movement.
  • Understand the concept of pelvis positioning (neutral pelvis/anterior tilt/posterior tilt) and can adjust the position of his or her pelvis as cued by the teacher.
  • Can lift and lengthen the spine and corresponding muscles to support the body while on the equipment or mat.

SAMPLE EXERCISES (not a comprehensive list):

Reformer: Equipment set-up/Spring Changes; Footwork

Mat: Breath Exercises; Pre-Pilates/preparatory exercises; 1/2 Roll Backs, Pelvic Curls (aka Articulated Bridges), Spine Twists Supine

Level 1: Fundamental

  • Practitioners who have done some Pilates.
  • Are aware of breath and are beginning to naturally coordinate breath with movement.
  • Can maintain a stable pelvic position during open chain, closed chain, or semi-closed chain exercises.
  • Can control their equipment with their body—for instance, can close the reformer carriage quietly without “banging,” change springs and put feet or hands in reformer straps efficiently and safely.
  • Can stabilize shoulders/scapulae during upper body movement.


  • Reformer: The One Hundred, Elephant, Leg Circles & Frog in straps
  • Mat: The One Hundred, Spine Stretch

Level 2: Advanced Beginner through Low Intermediate

  • Know/recognize most of the fundamental Pilates exercises by name and are familiar with their corresponding equipment setups.
  • Have built up breath capacity and stamina to work at a quicker pace with less need for cueing from the teacher.
  • Are moving in flexion and extension exercises, as well as learning fundamental side-bending and rotation exercises.
  • Know how to modify exercises for their own bodies, if needed. (Note: MVP teachers are always committed to keeping clients safe when exercises don’t fit, it’s important for clients at this level and beyond to know their bodies and how to adjust for themselves.)


  • Reformer: Coordination; Short Box Round and Flat Back
  • Mat: Side Kick Series; Single and Double Leg Kick

Level 3: Intermediate

  • Can incorporate rhythm and dynamic movement and flow through transitions.
  • Can navigate safely with fewer points of contact (e.g., kneeling on the reformer instead of lying supine).
  • Are increasing range of motion, learning inversions, and learning more complex rotational and side-bending exercises.
  • For classical classes: clients have a working knowledge of fundamental exercise order, choreography, equipment set-up, and transitions to flow through the workout with minimal interruption.


  • Reformer: Teaser on the Long Box; Kneeling Chest Expansion; Short Spine; Side Splits Series
  • Mat: Neck Pull, Shoulder Bridge, Swimming, Roll Over

Level 4: High Intermediate/Advanced

  • Can flow through a workout with control and efficiency.
  • Can adjust quickly to variations or additions as cued by teacher.
  • Can retain balance while on an unstable surface without spotting while moving/changing directions: this includes rotation, lateral flexion, and extension.
  • Can activate muscles on cue with minimal compensations and find nuanced adjustments in exercises.


  • Reformer: Kneeling Side Arm Series; Overhead; Tendon Stretch
  • Mat: Jack knife, Side Bend, Boomerang

Level 5: Super Advanced/Master

  • Pilates teachers.
  • Practitioners who know the method very well and have been practicing for years.


  • Reformer: Snake/Twist; Star; High Bridge
  • Mat: Control Balance; Twists; Crab


This document is a work-in-progress and will probably evolve over time. Please direct any questions or concerns to Krista Knudsen Thomas: montclairvillagepilates@gmail.com.



Open Studio Special Event

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Open Studio Special Event at MVP


Friday, 11/11/2016

It’s been an eventful week, to say the least.

If you need a way to wind down–or even re-energize–with some movement, why not swing by Open Studio?

Open Studio is a time to move your body the way YOU need to. It’s a non-structured, 2-hour window of time for all the people of our wonderful community to breathe, move, sweat (maybe), heal, and be together. I will be facilitating, answering questions, spotting, and guiding, but as always, YOU are in control of your body and what it needs.

It’s FREE and open to all. If you’ve never visited us, we’ll need you to sign an intake form and liability waiver before you get moving.

SIGN UP THROUGH OUR MINDBODY SITE: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/admhome?studioid=265974

Open Studio has been brewing in my consciousness since before I even had a studio to host it. I envision doing this again (hopefully many more times). So if you can’t make it this time, no worries. Join us at the next one.

Meanwhile, let’s keep moving and being kind to one another. SEE YOU AT OPEN STUDIO!



(Unfortunately Miles is already booked, so he won’t be in attendance.)


Step Into Fall…New Specials & Programming!

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Fall is a perfect time for new beginnings. Especially in the Bay Area!

September and October are our most beautiful months. The sun is shining, the days are still long(ish), the air is crisp but not cold, and the hiking is great! I always get a much-needed boost of motivation from the first days of September.

This fall at MVP, we’ve got lots of exciting new developments…and even more brewing! Here’s what we can officially announce:

  • Our Baker’s Dozen Private Session Special: Available Now.

    Buy 12 privates at regular price, get the 13th free! (That’s $960 for 13 sessions…$73.85 per session, if you want to get specific.) What a deal! And a great way to motivate yourself to take care of your body. 6-month expiration…as long as you average 2 sessions per month, you’ll finish these sessions with time to spare.

  • Independent Practice Memberships: Launching October 1.

    Are you non-injured, motivated, and have been practicing Pilates for at least one year? Do you want a consistent Pilates routine that you can do with some supervision, at convenient times?Independent Practice may be a good match. We provide you with a list of exercises suited to your body, and you do your workout! (This is how the Joe and Clara Pilates’ original studio was run, BTW.) At least one teacher will be on duty to troubleshoot/cue & spot/help with transitions, but this is mostly a self-directed practice.

    Cost: 10 hours per month for $180. Available Hours: to be determined. Teacher permission is required to participate in this program. Interested? Email montclairvillagepilates@gmail.com, or talk to Krista or your teacher next time you’re in the studio!

…And here are some “Teasers” of what’s to come:

  • Group Class on Friday mornings…yay!
  • Mat Class? We’re working on it!
  • Pilates for Hikers? So. Excited. (Hint: The Chair is involved.)
  • New website? Yep, we’re doing that, too!

Ok, bye for now, we’ve got a lot to do!




Love the feeling of working out on the raised mat!

Summer at MVP Means…

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Summer 2016 at MVP means…


Group Class Specials…

We’ve got a great group deal for you! $20 off a 6-pack of our small group classes! No coupon code needed; just select a 6-pack of group classes from our MindBody Online purchasing menu and you’ll receive the sale price ($170 instead of $190!) Click here to schedule and purchase.

Our group classes are always limited to 4 students per class, ensuring lots of individual attention and a powerful, personalized workout. This deal applies to all of our classes, from Introduction to Pilates, to Restorative Reformer, to Pilates Power Hour and more!

Welcoming New Teachers…

We are happy to welcome new teachers to the MVP family! Linzey Walker, Brijett Warto, and Sophia Thorsen are bringing their dynamic energy to the studio. Each teacher has a unique perspective and background which enriches our diverse team.

Sophia Thorsen joins us as a Senior Teacher. Sophia has over 15 years of Pilates teaching experience. She received her Pilates education at The Pilates Center in Boulder, CO and has learned from many Pilates greats. Sophia infuses her knowledge of the classical work with a hands-on teaching style that helps clients deeply connect with their own bodies.

Sophia is teaching Monday Mixed Level Reformer at 5:30pm, and is available for private and semi-private training by appointment.

Brijett Warto brings her athletic and well-rounded teaching style to MVP. Brijett knows how to deliver a high-performance workout, rooted in Pilates principles. Brijett is trained in all the Pilates apparatus and mat work through Balanced Body.

Brijett is traveling during the summer, and we eagerly await her return this fall!

Linzey Walker is a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer who is currently completing her Pilates teacher training program with STOTT Pilates. She is a certified Women’s Fitness Specialist and has a knack for pushing people while avoiding injury and making the workout a fun and playful experience.

Linzey will be teaching our invigorating, fitness-based Power Hour class every Wednesday at 6:30am, beginning July 13. She’s also available for private and semi-private sessions.

New Client Special:
Buy 3 private sessions, get 1 free!

Are you new to MVP? Or maybe you’ve only taken group classes and want some personal attention? Check out our new client special: buy 3 privates at the regular price, get 1 free. That’s a savings of $80.

Toesox and Props for Sale!

Next time you’re at MVP, check out our new selection of retail items. Toesoxprevent your feet from slipping during your practice, support the muscles of your feet, provide a hygienic barrier between your feet and the apparatus…and they’re cute! We’ve also got foam rollers, pinky balls, TheraBands, and Overballs to help you release, stretch, and engage all those important stabilizing muscles during your at-home practice.


What are you waiting for? Join the fun!

Schedule one-on-one or group training here.



Toesox and Props and New Classes, Oh My!

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IMG_0165Big News!

We’re selling Toesox and props!

So often, clients ask me about the cute “grippy socks” I wear in the studio. I always tell them, “They’re Toesox! I love them–I could sell them door-to-door!”

Well, the day has come. MVP has become a Toesox retailer. Our first shipment has come in, and I’m having a hard time not taking them all home. If you don’t know about Toesox, here’s why they are a healthy addition to your Pilates practice:

  • Nonslip grip keeps your feet in place on the equipment
  • 5-toe design allows toes to move and spread
  • Creates a hygienic barrier

They’re available in many fun colors and patterns–we’ve also stocked select non-grip 5-toe sport styles. Prices start at $16 per pair for grip collection.


And let’s not forget about props!pilates props

Here’s my list of “must-have” props for a home practice:

  • Foam Roller
  • Pinky Ball or other small ball for foot and spinal massage
  • TheraBand or resistance band
  • Small, slightly deflated ball for abdominal stabilization work

Clients frequently ask me about where to buy these kinds of props…so I decided to carry them, too!  We’re stocked up with 2 kinds of OPTP rollers (the soft pink is my FAVORITE!), Pinky Balls, TheraBands, and Overballs for ab work that won’t let you cheat!

Next time you’re at MVP, check out what we’ve got–see you at the studio!


Oh, and did I mention we’ve got some great new group classes? More on that to come…