GoRecess Playground Pro: Alycea Ungaro, Real Pilates NYC



Where She Teaches: Owner of Real Pilates, NYC

Classes She Teaches: SpringTone™, Real Alignment Mat Class and private sessions

Background: 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, published in 2002, The Pilates Promise published in 2004, and The Pilates Practice Companion, Alycea’s most comprehensive book yet, released in bookstores in January 2011. In addition to serving on the advisory board of Fitness Magazine, Alycea also travels widely as a guest teacher hosting retreats at world-famous locations such as Amangani in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She has trained scores of celebrities including Madonna, Uma Thurman, Kyra Sedgewick, Claire Danes, and Molly Sims. Together with long-time client Christy Turlington, Alycea collaborated on a “Pilates Booty” for Puma. The booty was aptly named “The Alycea.” Alycea was early to the digital game by partnering with Mobile Mind, Inc. to launch a cell phone version of PortablePilates™. This go-anywhere mini-workout, was designed to broaden Pilates accessibility. 15 Minute Everyday Pilates has also been converted into a series of Vooks (video books) that are available for iPhones and iPads as well as the Amazon Kindle and the Android platform. The New York Times has hailed these Pilates Apps as the best on the market. She also created the “15 Minute Everyday Pilates” DVD and the patent-pending Real Alignment Mat for the home exerciser. In addition to her Pilates expertise, Ungaro is a licensed physical therapist having graduated from New York University’s prestigious program. She is also a certified Peri-natal specialist making her uniquely qualified to work with all levels of disability and with clients during any phase of their pregnancy.


How did you get started doing Pilates? I was a young injured dancer at the School of American Ballet in New York. They recommended Pilates and I instantly took to it. The year was 1982, so this year marks my 30th anniversary.

For someone who has never tried Pilates, why do you recommend it and why do you think it’s a great workout? I recommend Pilates to everyone and for everyone. There is no one who can't do Pilates and I believe everyone should do Pilates. I am not suggesting that Pilates is the cure-all or should replace what you already do. Quite the contrary - I’m suggesting that Pilates supports and improves all your other activities to the highest degree. With Pilates in your back pocket you aren’t just stronger, you become a better version of yourself - in all you do.

What do you find to be students’ biggest struggle when practicing pilates and what advice do you have for Pilates newbies? Struggles are so individual. Some folks have trouble really targeting their deep abdominals, others are inflexible. With Pilates I think the biggest struggle for a beginner is patience. Pilates starts out simply and gets progressively more difficult and often new exercisers don’t want to wait for the “burn”. The good news is the high rate of exercise drop out is caused by early injuries and overuse from new students just pushing to hard. Pilates paces you just right so you get gradually stronger and build a habit of exercise that truly lasts a lifetime.

What’s your favorite type of Pilates equipment and why? Anything with Springs! I’m a spring addict. We have all the orginal Pilates equipment at my studio and we make good use of all of them. These days, the Arm Springs are my favorite, simple and effective. If you only had these, you could kick your booty into great shape.

The Pilates move everyone should master? Rolling Like a Ball. So silly, but done properly, this move demonstrates the fluidity, control, strength, focus and determination that Pilates demands.

Your most memorable teaching moment?  Here’s a funny one: In the heat of a difficult exercise, I barked out an order to a male client and he responded, “Yes, Mistress of Pain.”

If you could give GoRecess users one piece of fitness advice what would it be? I tell all my clients to make sure they do a workout that their body needs to do twice a week and something that they love to do once a week. This way, you continue to train yourself according to your own particular needs but still maintain a joy of moving. There simply is no one size fits all fitness.

Aside from pilates, what types of fitness activities do you enjoy? I enjoy hiking, yoga, running and the occasional dance class.

Proudest fitness accomplishment? I was once applauded for a Pilates exercise called the Short Spine Massage in a continuing education workshop. At the time I felt that the move was my best execution but I’ve never been able to fully reproduce it. I keep trying though.

Favorite workout brand? I’m intensely disloyal to brands. But these days I quite like Rese,  Lolë, and Pure Karma, all of which we stock in our boutique at Real Pilates.

What do you eat/not eat? I recently gave up dairy. Other than that, I try to limit my sugar and eat clean whole foods as much as possible. I have no affection for clams, mussels or oysters, despite my family’s great love for them.

Your guilty pleasure? Carvel ice cream. Please don’t tell anyone.

Favorite thing to do in New York City? Walk! I will walk from East to West or North to South and when I travel I have to get out and take a walk immediately. My family takes after dinner walks regularly.

Favorite travel destination? Anywhere I haven’t been before. I’m an Aries so I crave continually new experiences! Having said that, I have a soft spot for the South of France.


What makes Real Pilates unique? We love our clients! We work tirelessly to build them challenging and exciting programs based on our tremendous experience in the field. Real Pilates is truly a boutique gym, not a small corporate chain. All of our clients have access to me as the owner and our team meets regularly to discuss each client's progress. It just doesn’t get more personal than that.


You Might Like

GoRecess Playground Pro: Mika Street of Uptown Pilates

GoRecess Playground Pro: Jenn Seracuse, Pilates ProWorks, NYC


  • [...] Want to gain better insight? Read about Alycea’s thoughts on Pilates on the GoRecess Blog! [...]

Join the Conversation

Go Recess reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business.