Welcome to ON BEAUTY, a monthly feature highlighting creative, like-minded people who inspire us.
Pilates can sometimes feel a bit stagnant depending on the instructor, but that’s never the case when taught by Amanda Kassar. The LA-based founder of Pilates by Amanda teaches the muscle activating workout via a reformer (she pivoted to mat Pilates during COVID-19 and you can access her streaming workouts on pilatesbyamanda.com) and has a knack for morphing the body. Think stronger, longer, and leaner.
Amanda opened her studio almost three years ago in the guest house of her home. But to get into her semi-private classes, she requires her clients to take a few private lessons to make sure you know the moves, your form is up to par, and that she understands your body to give you your best workout, yet.
Here, Amanda reveals why the reformer will always be her Pilates style of choice, the reason it’s important to keep the body guessing, and how Pilates can lead to mental clarity.
You want to feel discomfort that you kind of crave. If you’re sore, that’s great because the muscle is changing and the muscle fibers are breaking down. This means your body is changing.
Why should someone consider pilates?
I always say that Pilates is like an oil change for your body. If you’re doing other exercises and you notice pain in your joints, knees, or lower back, it usually means that the core is not as strong. That’s where Pilates comes in. Once you work the core, it helps with your whole body’s alignment. And once you have the right alignment, it takes the pressure off your joints.
That’s one of the reasons I got into Pilates. Not only did it change my body, but I was able to activate the right muscles and connect to them properly. When you connect with the right muscles, you start to create a burn and fatigue, and that’s when the body begins to change.
You teach on the reformer, although you had to pivot when you started your streaming videos. When clients have a choice between the two and can go back to class, why choose the reformer or over mat Pilates?
I’m in love with the reformer. When I first started my Pilates training, I learned on the mat to understand the fundamentals. There are so many elements to the reformer that you can get a little bit lost and not focus on the proper muscles. I believe that everyone should learn on the mat so that they can connect with their body. But once you’ve found that connection—the reformer is endless.
On the mat, you can add a ball, a ring, hand weights or ankle weights and I’ve been having a lot of fun creating routines that try to mimic the reformer during the quarantine. But in reality, for me, it’s nothing compared to the reformer.
That said, when you do get on the reformer, your body is going to remember that connection you made on the mat. You’ll start to learn your body more, which will help me, help you.
What makes your technique unique?
What makes my technique unique is that I do a combination of so many different types of workouts, from traditional Pilates to HIIT power pilates to regular weight training to a little bit of cardio. It’s not just Pilates. There’s so much more about the way I teach and I add different elements to keep the body guessing. No one wants to walk into a studio and do the same thing every day.
I also focus on each muscle group before we go to the next and fatigue it until failure and that’s when it changes and that’s what keeps people coming back. In all my routines, I do a full oblique section, which I think is essential because it helps to shape the body. A lot of workouts don’t focus so much on the core and that’s the basis of Pilates.
Healing is so many different things. If you eat well and you workout, your whole body starts to heal.
Muscle activation is an important part of Pilates. How do you know when that muscle is activated?
Once you start to feel that burn, the muscle is activated. Part of my technique is trying to find that discomfort and I’ll stick with it until it almost gets unbearable. This really gets into the muscle.
Obviously, you don’t want to feel pain. You want to feel discomfort that you kind of crave. If you’re sore, that’s great because the muscle is changing and the muscle fibers are breaking down. This means your body is changing.
For me, the mind-body connection is also very important. Once you build that muscle, it sends a signal to the brain. For instance, I can squeeze my glutes, or I can squeeze my core, or I can squeeze my biceps without actually moving my body.
Our founder, Julie Elliott, likes to say healing is an inside job, so what does that mean to you?
Healing is so many different things. If you eat well and you workout, your whole body starts to heal. If someone came to me and said they drink a lot and eat fast food, I would tell them that working out and eating right is healing. They have to work together. It’s not just one or the other.
What other benefits does Pilates deliver why should someone consider it?
There are so many people that come to me with injuries. And a lot of them are because of other workouts and the intensity is too much. Running is too much on their knees or cycling is too much on their hips. If you have an injury, Pilates is so great because you can take it easy, it’s great on the joints, and easy on the body, yet you can also make it intense.
Another aspect is mental health. I know for me, if I don’t work out, I don’t feel as good. I need it for mental clarity. It builds endorphins and after a workout, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.
Pilates even benefits skin. I know that when my clients are working out, their skin is better. They’re glowing and are getting that beneficial sweat.
My coffee in the morning is my favorite ritual. I can’t start my day without it. I gave up caffeine for six months and I had a lot of energy, but there’s something about having coffee to start my day.
The one that comes to mind right now, because I’m dreaming of summer, is the Tom Ford Soleil Blanc. When I put that on, I pretend I’m by the beach and everything is fine.
Do you have any tips for long-haul flights?
I tell my clients all the time to get up and walk down the aisle and take a stretch in the back or near the bathroom. If you’re not getting out of your seat, roll your wrists out and move your fingers. People always forget about their joints. When they crack, you feel like you’re getting a stretch in your arm. If you move your fingers, you’ll feel like you’re getting a massage in your palm.
What’s your favorite beauty food?
To be honest, I wasn’t into salmon until Organic Oren’s (we partner on a weekly meal plan for my clients) miso salmon. It’s so good, I feel so full, and I feel the benefits happening in my skin.
What’s your vice?
My vice is the Antico (a Los Angeles-based Italian restaurant) honeycomb ice cream. They are doing pick up and I’ve been ordering the homemade gelato. It’s insane and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Do you have any charms or talismans?
My wedding ring. I’m not a jewelry person. I wear my wedding ring and a pair of earrings and that’s it.