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A Pilates Gem in Pasadena

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Tucked onto a side street in the Playhouse District of Pasadena, Zoe - A Pilates Studio, is so inconspicuous that I drove by twice before noticing it. Marked only by a small sign, the unassuming exterior belies a light, airy space with state-of-the-art equipment and a focused, intense tenor. And the atmosphere is no accident; when it comes to Pilates studios, this, says owner Zoe Marcus, is "the real deal." A former ballet dancer, Marcus has been running the studio since 1995, and emphasizes
that she adheres strictly to the Pilates method. "It's mental and physical conditioning," she says, meaning that it's as much about focus and concentration as it is about proper positioning and engagement of the core. No slouching and haphazardly plopping onto to the machines; first align, then prepare, then sit. Without this intensity, she says, Pilates "might be fun, but you're not going to learn the technique."

Over the course of an hour session with Marcus, as I engaged muscles that had never before experienced so much as an accidental clench, I began to see what she meant. Hovering tentatively over the Pilates reformer, she pulled my navel up, pushed my shoulders back and instructed me to look down. "Now push your feet away, engage your powerhouse and don't let your shoulders move." I did one repetition and realized that the mat classes I had relied on up until this point were but shoddy preparation for the real thing.