We are proud to present an interview with Alycea Ungaro of Real Pilates based in New York City. Alycea and her team are celebrating Real Pilates 25th anniversary at her Soho and Upper East Side studios in Manhattan as well as the satellite studio in Montauk on Long Island. Real Pilates has affiliated studios in Texas, Louisiana, California, Mexico, Berlin, Hong Kong and several other locations where the Real Pilates teacher training and certification workshops are hosted. Alycea is a true “powerhouse” combining her Pilates training and taught by Romana Kryzanowska and her education as a physical therapist and nutritionist in helping her clients achieve the connection of the mind and body that make Pilates such a dynamic and effective discipline. Alycea and her team make the work fun and engaging while maintaining strict adherence to the original Pilates method. Please check our their studios and programs and schedule a visit if you are in New York.

ABOUT Alycea Ungaro

Published authority on fitness and wellness and a pioneer of the Pilates method, Alycea Ungaro brought some of the very first mat Pilates classes to New York City. Both the method and Alycea built a devoted following as people flocked to her classes.

Alycea has expanded her popular Pilates classes into a fitness media empire. Her first multi-media project was the innovative Portable Pilates™, an easy-to-use at-home mat workout. Best selling titles followed including; Pilates: Body in Motion, The Pilates Promise and The Pilates Practice Companion, Alycea’s most comprehensive book. Her 15 Minute Everyday Pilates was an international bestseller. A new edition of Pilates: Body in Motion was released in 2019 a re-worked version of 15-Minute Everyday Pilates was released in 2020.

Please share any family or childhood memories or interests related to sports, hobbies, education, music, health and fitness history

Like my teacher Romana Kryznowska, I came to Pilates from classical Ballet. I took every kind of dance I could as a young girl until I systematically stripped away every type except for the Ballet. I was dedicated to pursuing it from a very early age. I used to stuff cardboard into my leather ballet shoes to convert them into pointe shoes so I could dance around the house. My father was a singer and my mother loved music so it's true to say that music was my first love and dance was a way to express that passion. It wasn't until I was an adult that I dabbled in physical activities beyond dance. When you are in classes, rehearsals and eventually performance in all of your free time - there isn't much time for other movement pursuits.

What brought you to Pilates? Please describe your evolution as a student, apprentice and certification, organizational alliances, etc.

Also like Romana, I studied at the Balanchine school and an ankle injury sent me to the Pilates method. I began studying at the age of 14 in New York City at the Anderson-Kasakove studio which was run by two students of Carola Trier. From there I went to study with Steve Giordano who was himself a student of Romana's. In my early 20's I decided I should plan for life beyond ballet and determined I would study Physical Therapy. At the time I was working with the Feld Ballet Company auditioning young students and also teaching dance. Teaching Pilates seemed like a fun thing to do and a transition that would help me pay for school and make my own hours. My plan worked. I trained with Romana and put myself through school eventually graduating from NYU with my degree and license in Physical Therapy.  I also have my Master's in Applied Clinical Nutrition. I'm a bit of an education junkie. Learning inspires me to teach. It inspires me to create content. If I go too long without learning something new, I get depressed and have to sign up for something or read a new book.

Speaking to my evolution as a teacher - I was always focused on the actual teaching technique. The words, positions, the techniques which collectively make the difference between a capable teacher and an exceptional one. I found also that the "less is more" mantra really served me and my clients. Translating that focus to our teacher training program has been hugely validating and rewarding.

What do you love about teaching Pilates and teaching clients? What about your training, teaching teachers, and how do you see yourself as a leader and influencer?

That is a lot to answer! Let me start at the end.  I'm not sure leader and influencer are titles I'm comfortable with. I think my greatest contribution to the Pilates field has been the many hundreds of instructors we've hired, inspired and trained. From the early days of my studio we've given rise to teachers moving on from us to open their own studios and begin their own businesses. Our instructors give back to the industry in substantial ways. They create products, establish brands, reinvent the community and of course continue to train clients worldwide. The best part about my role in the Pilates world is how many people we've touched that have gone on to do great things. They are part of our story and we are part of theirs.

What do I love about teaching Pilates, teaching clients and teaching Teachers ? All of it! As an author and writer - I especially love the nuance of delivery. I  love how teaching a client can be utterly reductionist and how training teachers is rich with all the bells and whistles. Teaching teachers means I can impart what I have learned from Romana to as many people as possible. It also means I get to be part of the Pilates story, the preservation of the work and the future of the practice in some small measure.

Since you mentioned Primary Education - I'll dive in for a moment. Building a strong foundation is key in any educational pursuit. When I began to develop our program I did so with the intention to make every hour count. Students transform into teachers by actually teaching. The process happens in real time, incrementally but profoundly. I saw my task as content creator as the opportunity to build a program that would ensure each element was integrated with all the others. Asking if each of the training categories could work harder, if each seminar could be better, if each self practice session could accomplish more was key to creating the Real Pilates Teacher Training Program. I'm pretty proud of what we created - but I'm also excited to do more in the years to come.

Due to the pandemic and global health emergencies, COVID has financially impacted the Pilates Community and particularly studio owners pretty hard - how are you dealing with the challenges?

As much as technology has pushed us forward during Covid-19 it has also revealed what we hold dear. The connection with our teachers and our students, the feel of a hands on adjustment and the shared joy of occupying the same space and experience isn't something that is going to disappear anytime soon. We are human and we need to move "in packs" so to speak. Pilates studios are in many ways our tribes and that's not something a screen can accomplish.

"Back then I had no Gratz equipment at all. I bought my first Gratz Reformer about 1 year after we opened and there was an immediate clash at the studio. Clients fought over who got to work out 'on the metal one'."


We've had to fight for survival like every other business but our team is closer than ever. You learn during a crisis what is necessary and what is not. We learned a lot about what we really need to thrive together in our space and what wasn't serving us. I'd encourage all instructors and studios to take the opportunity to really examine your business and your plans to see what is non-negotiable and what can be let go. You may be surprised.


This year is our 25th anniversary of opening our 1st brick and mortar studio. Back then I had no Gratz equipment at all. I bought my first Gratz Reformer about 1 year after we opened and there was an immediate clash at the studio. Clients fought over who got to work out "on the metal one".  Within 3 months we had to order more. This year I let go the last of those very early pieces and now for the first time in our history - the studios are purely and genuinely one hundred percent Gratz. It's taken decades to get here but from that very first purchase - there was only one "real" choice.


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