As part of our New Year’s fitness special in the January 2016 issue of Weekender magazine, we signed up for a private lesson with Maki Okazaki at her Pilates Aoyama studio, which features an array of top pilates equipment. Never tried the Cadillac before? Here’s what it’s like…

Although we don’t look quite as impressive as famed pilates instructor Kathi Ross-Nash on a Reformer (pictured above), we went along to Maki Okazaki’s Pilates Aoyama studio to take a bash at mastering the mechanics of pilates apparatus. While we’ve tried a mat class in the past, taking a private lesson with Okazaki gave us exclusive access to the impressive equipment, orginally developed by Joseph H. Pilates himself.

Our favorite machine? Definitely the Cadillac, a six-foot tall structure that has all sorts of bells and whistles. It can be used for anything from rehab work to acrobatic tricks. With gentle but precise guidance, Okazaki took us through a series of controlled stretches, making sure we pinched our core muscles and properly rolled the spine with breathing techniques. Although we didn’t manage to try the “inverted hanging pike” (one day!), the session was enough to make us feel lengthened and strengthened. Besides the Cadillac, Okazaki’s studio boasts other equipment too, including the Reformer and the Ladder Barrel.

Pilates Aoyama

Pilates Aoyama

Okazaki, who speaks English and is passionate about the work she does, will be sure to ask you about any injuries you may have, before tailoring the exercises to suit your needs and skill level. The machines provide a total body workout to help you stay flexible, improve your balance, and maintain a powerful core. They are also excellent for rehabilitation. Okazaki – who is a second-generation pilates master, and studied in New York with students of Joseph H. Pilates including Romana Kryzanowska, Kathy Grant, and Lolita San Miguel – founded Pilates Aoyama in 2005 and works with dancers, athletes, and businessmen.

“Most of my clients are non-Japanese, and half of them are men,” she tells us. “Pilates helps them with recovery after injuries, enhances sports performance, and strengthens the entire body, while also helping to correct alignment.” The ultimate goal, however, is balancing body, mind, and spirit, and Okazaki’s method goes beyond just putting your body in motion: “We offer a holistic experience, because it’s not just your fitness; it’s about your life.”

Pilates Aoyama

A 60-minute private session at Pilates Aoyama costs ¥10,000 (no membership fee required). Book a slot between 6.30am and 8pm by emailing [email protected] or calling 03 5411 1147. The studio is five minutes from Omotesando Station; more information at

Join a Workshop in February at Pilates Aoyama with Renowned Pilates Instructor Lolita San Miguel

In February, Okazaki will host a three-day workshop featuring Lolita San Miguel – who studied under Joseph H. Pilates. It will include lectures as well as mat and equipment exercises, and will run for six hours per day from February 3-5 (one-day participation is possible).

40 spots, ¥32,000 per day, apply by emailing [email protected]. More info at 

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Main image: Kathi Ross-Nash