Polestar Grads Where are they Now? Mara Sievers’ Pilates Encyclopedia


“We all know that we can choose from the following variations for Footwork on the Reformer:

Heels parallel, V-position with heels on the bar, point and flex (tendon stretch), running (prancing, walking), prehensile (wrapping) and a few others. But why would you choose one over the other?

Which variation is best for which type of student? Should I use only one variation or several? How many? Or all of them?”   – Mara Sievers (Pilates Encyclopedia)

  I created the Pilates Encyclopedia as a guide through the Pilates repertoire. Being a busy teacher and studio owner, I grew tired of having to sift through hours of videos and web pages to find a solution to a teaching question that came up regarding the Pilates repertoire. The Polestar comprehensive training has given me a tremendous foundation for my day-to-day teaching, but inevitably when you work with “real people” within a studio setting, you encounter situations you haven’t specifically studied. When, for example, you get your first student with a joint replacement, or when a student just doesn’t “get” the exercise …even after you’ve tried every possible cue you can think of. Maybe you have a student with a unique set of limitations, and you’re unsure of what to do. I decided to make lists of exercises for specific goals that I could scan quickly before a lesson to give me an idea of what to try with a particular client. I don’t consider myself the most creative teacher, but I love to organize. Most importantly, I wanted a shortcut for the next time I had a similar question. When you teach 6+ hours a day you just don’t have a lot of time or energy left to spend researching. I wanted a resource, a Wikipedia of Pilates, so to speak. A destination that would give me an answer to any Pilates exercise question. That’s the role I hope the Pilates Encyclopedia will provide. As you can imagine this is a huge endeavor, and I’m aware that I won’t be able to include every single variation in our library immediately, but over time we’ll create a huge collection of Pilates tools. I don’t ascribe to labels, such as classical or contemporary. I draw inspiration from both sides. Of foremost importance to me is understanding why someone teaches an exercise one way while another person teaches the opposite. Who’s right? Of course, the answer is both. It all depends on the person doing the exercise. It’s about the student, not the teacher. The student (initially) doesn’t care if they’re being taught by a classical or contemporary teacher, they just want to feel better and be stronger, more mobile, steadier on their feet, faster in the water, on their skis or on the bike. The Encyclopedia is organized by apparatus, then by position (supine, prone, sideline, seated, kneeling, standing etc), and then alphabetically. Just like you would look up a word in the dictionary, you can look up a specific exercise and learn all there is to know about it. Different schools use different terminology, so I’ve tried to list every possible name an exercise goes by so students of any school can use the “search” feature to quickly find what they are looking for. The whole library is accessible via any computer, smartphone or tablet. Let’s say you’re a teacher and you only have ten minutes in between students and you quickly want to look up a way to help your student avoid knee pain in Feet in Straps on the Reformer; you will find that answer in the short time you have. My absolute favorite feature of the Pilates Encyclopedia is the comment feature. I think it offers tremendous value to our community. Imagine you look up an exercise but you still can’t find the answer you need. Then you have the option to simply post a comment, ask what you want to know, and all the other members, as well as I or another teacher, will answer your specific question within 24-hours. This is something you might already be familiar with from Facebook groups where you can post a question and get answers from other highly trained teachers. This is very convenient. However, if you need this information a month later, it takes a long time to scroll through the endless feed of a group to find the answer. Sometimes these feeds get out of hand by veering off subject. We can monitor comments in Pilates Encyclopedia better, making useful information available where you need it when you need it. Over the years, the library will grow and grow, just like we grow as teachers. I enjoy the process of adding content to the library. I used to be an actor, singer, and dancer and I’m not shy in front of the camera. I love to learn new exercises (in live workshops, lessons with other teachers, on Instagram or Facebook), but I put each variation through a personal vetting process. I need a good reason for teaching a specific variation. It’s not enough for me that it looks fun. I’m very purpose driven. I’m sure each one of you has at least one exercise that you just don’t get. For me, it’s Stomach Massage. I know how I’m supposed to do it, I know the breathing pattern, I know the contraindications and precautions, but I don’t (yet) know the why. Why, why, why?! That’s my ultimate question for everything in life, not just Pilates. Who knows, maybe I’m still 3 years old?! Here’s an example: We all know that we can choose from the following variations for Footwork on the Reformer: heels parallel, V-position with heels on the bar, point and flex (tendon stretch), running (prancing, walking), prehensile (wrapping) and a few others. But why would you choose one over the other? Which variation is best for which type of student? Should I use only one variation or several? How many? Or all of them? Those are the types of questions I’d like to answer with Pilates Encyclopedia. I would love for it to be a Pilates study guide. Teacher training manuals for Pilates are limited in the sense that they show moments and positions, but it’s hard to tell what happens between picture A and picture B. How do I get from this first position to that second position? So much of Pilates happens in transitions, in the movement, obviously. Holding a position is one thing, but in the transition from one position to the next is where we see if a joint stays congruent or not. Pilates is an amazing method, and it can be hard. It requires a lot of time to master. With its many details, it can seem overwhelming at first. Even after completing a comprehensive training, there is still so much to learn. I see Pilates Encyclopedia as my legacy, as a way to aggregate the method in one place (instead of scattered about the interwebs) and my way of contributing to this amazing endeavor. I sincerely hope that it’ll help raise the bar in our industry, and makes us better movers and teachers by being accessible and affordable. Polestar Grads Where are they Now? Mara Sievers’ is a Polestar Graduate, Practitioner and the creator of Pilates Encyclopedia.   Like our Blog? Sign up for the Polestar Life Weekly Newsletter!

Reader Interactions


  1. I first found Pilates Encyclopedia on YouTube during my Polestar comprehensive training. I really resonated with Mara’s teaching style, extensive knowledge, and variations on exercises. Once I signed up for the trial subscription I was hooked! There is so much information there including cueing, equipment setup, benefits of the exercise, regressions and progressions, related exercises, and sequencing. The site is perfect for me (a beginner Pilates instructor) to dive deeper into the exercises which helps me for the classes I teach. So happy I stumbled upon Pilates encyclopedia! Thank you Mara!


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