Made in Sweden: Pilates Scandinavia by Prag Movement
August 10, 2016
Who? Elisabet and Fredrik Prag, with over 45 years of combined pilates experience between them both. They also have pilates studios in Stockholm and Skåne.
Philosophy + Mission? To create pilates equipment that gives the highest quality experience for the body.
Why is PS unique? The research put into each material and detail was extensive to ensure the combination of the pieces flow perfectly. Just like pilates is about connecting the body, each piece of the equipment plays a part in the larger role of the apparatus. Elisabet likens it to playing an instrument: “There’s a sensitivity to feel the difference in different equipment, so as a manufacturer you need to be able to feel all those vibrations and tones so the notes and overall music resonate into your body creating the right tune. When everything is connected the body reacts deeper, and our aim is for our clients to create the most effective workout using our equipment without having to be experts.” Another unique feature are the bespoke options they offer: choose the colour of the leather straps and padding; or use a Svenskt Tenn fabric (or any other you desire) to match the apparatus to your personal space. The options are endless…
Materials and Production? Everything is produced in Sweden except for the wheels, which are made in the US from the only company in the world that produce wheels up to their standards. The springs are made at a local Swedish steel plant. The leather is sourced from a local Swedish supplier. The wood is local Swedish ash. The apparatus themselves are constructed by a local Swedish manufacturer. They even have a few secret ingredients including the rail made from a special material not used by any other pilates equipment manufacturers. Why? They noticed most reformers slid too easily – and in the traditional method friction is very important for a more impactful workout – so they discovered a material that creates more friction on the rail…a.k.a. Pilates Scientists.
For more information visit Pilates Scandinavia
From Wikipedia: A Euclidean vector (sometimes called simply a vector) is a geometric object that has magnitude (or length) and direction…frequently represented by a line segment with a definite direction, or graphically as an arrow.
Surprise, surprise I like to spend some time browsing on Facebook. I can guess that like many of you, in my feed appear many Pilates related posts. One day last spring appeared something like this pic to the left. I had no idea of how it related to Pilates, except for the title of the piece ‘Side Bend’. The visceral reaction within was that I liked what I saw, I recognised intelligence and skill.
Yes, I was impressed and was drawn to investigate further. To my delight, I found a full series of these drawings, one for every exercise found in Joe Pilates’ ‘Return to Life’.
And to further my pleasure, I found that the creator of these works was my fellow Stockholm Pilates colleague, Fredrik Prag. Fred is a bit of a Pilates hermit, so I do not see him too often, but I like him and know that he is fully dedicated to the Pilates technique, and so I asked if we could meet and talk about his latest of many ventures, to which he agreed.
Of course, I asked Fredrik about the original idea behind this brilliant series.
“Some years ago I attended a four-day introduction seminar on chiropractic techniques, just out of interest. There they introduced a concept of the natural placement of bones, that each has its specific place depending on the individual, and that optimal functioning of the body is dependent on the integrity of this placement. Here I also was introduced to vectors…the direction of force needed when applying chiropractic manipulation.”
“The concept fascinated me, and ‘vectors’ stayed with me…. I loved the word. I was intuitively informed by this small exposure to chiropractic concepts. Over time, while teaching, a growing sense of the vectors of force in the vertebrae occurred in me.
“And so it happened that one client could not understand the Backstroke on the Reformer through my words and demonstrations. Being one to always look for new ways to convey ideas to my students, I sat down and drew for her the right way to do it, and the wrong way to do it. I presented my work to her without a word….and to my (and her) surprise, she performed the Backstroke as I wished her to do. It was clear that a deeper understanding had been conveyed. Okay?”
“I subsequently posted the drawing on Facebook, and the feedback was wonderfully positive, with some comments that it was art. My friend, Benjamin Degenhardt, (the creator of the popular ‘March Matness’) called and invited me to participate in March Matness 2015 by drawing each of the original 32 exercises found in in Return to Life. And given that I used to be an artist, creating paintings and stuff, I gladly accepted, and the response continued to be positive.
“My vector drawings are an expression of my understanding of what is happening in the body, the energy flow, that occurs during the represented exercise. The drawings represent from a feeling within me and how I would try to describe to a body in front of me, without words, the exercise.”
“Everything has inherently its place. So if you can get into that abstract, which is not abstract, but it is abstract in the world of Pilates, I would say, because I am trying to instruct verbally or with my body an inherent manner of movement. This is why vectors come into play so naturally, they allow the practitioner to get into another place in the body, and makes the work more enjoyable while deepening the awareness. My drawings are a catalyst for a deeper investigation of what the specific exercise is about…and in that a deeper look into Pilates itself.
“Each drawing is an expression of my understanding of the energy flow that occurs during a specific exercise, and how I might wordlessly communicate that to an individual body before me. This communication is highly personal; there might possibly be a different drawing for each person. When it happens that a drawing causes a person to express his/her feeling of a certain ‘yes, that is true’ – then I am delighted. That people relate to my work and find it beautiful pleases me. The success of these drawings lead me to create the Facebook page ‘Intuitive Body Synthesis & Art of Movement’ , expressing how to move the body in certain angles of energy.
Fred explains what he had in mind with his ‘Swan’.
“The upward arching vectors represent a deep connection to the abdominal wall – the support from the power house. One should attempt to maintain this arc shape throughout the exercise. The horizontal base vector demonstrates an energy of length through the body that is necessary to attain that fluid arc I mentioned. The zig-zag pattern under the lower half of the arc represents a deep grounding to the floor required to take the exercise high while maintaining ease in the movement. And yeah, the dots at the vectors’ ends express a tingling, flowing sensation of the exercise – also an expression of ease.
Fred finishes with “So that’s it.”
Yepp…that’s it, from a person in many ways beautiful and sensitive, and who has impressively actualised his gifts in many ways…these drawings being but one of them.
His work inspires a tireless contemplation of the move represented.
True works of art.
A short while back I had the good fortune of visiting the workshop of Fredrik and Elisabet Prag in their rural home outside of Stockholm. Fredrik and Elisabet are both Pilates instructors, passionate about the classical technique. They are also craftspersons; they design and build Pilates apparatus. The purpose of my visit was to find out a little more about their craft. I entered their lovely home, and was lead upstairs and across the house to their workshop/studio. Descending into the open space where the full spectrum of Pilates apparatus was present along with building materials, I was struck by the clean and simple harmony that was present. In the far corner, sitting by itself near a large bay window, sits a reformer.
Even from a distance, I can see the well-known Scandinavian touch of simplicity, quality and understated beauty. I am immediately impressed with this reformer, recently completed. They notice my admiration, “we want every product we make to last a lifetime”, they say with seriousness and pride. Fredrik and Elisabet move in closer to the reformer, I follow them, and they explain the uniqueness of their product.
“We compare making this reformer to the production of a cello,” says Elisabet, “the frame of the reformer needs of course to be durable, but we aim for a much deeper experience. For example, when you are laying on the carriage doing footwork, it is important that the combination of precise spring tension, the friction of the wheels along their tracks, and the firmness of the carriage itself should be calibrated to create a resonance that enters into the body. In this way, the exercise deepens into an intense and intimate duet of equipment and person, leading to a greater use and sensitivity of the powerhouse.”
I am touched by her words; they opened for me a new dimension of the apparatus of which I was not previously aware. I am also touched, for as Elisabet speaks, she is bent over the reformer, gesturing with wide sweeps of her arms, accentuating how the build of the reformer should be able to transmit the resonance she talks about. And Fredrik stands close by with a stillness showing his similar understanding.
In making the metal base, Fredrik collaborated with local metal smiths. “It was great that to share our respective expertise in making this unique reformer,” Fredrik points out, “traditionally, the track upon which the wheels roll are made of aluminum, but together we created a new recipe, creating a slightly different resistance, making the body work that little bit more. If the tracks are too smooth, and the springs too easily pull you back in, the body will be less informed and the work remains more at the surface. We designed the resistance of the tracks to encourage working into the body, creating a greater lift within. We are pleased with the result, and find it unique.”
Time for a test drive, I climb on and start with footwork. “Yes” says Fredrik encouragingly, before I have done anything. I am struck by the visceral sound from the rolling wheels, new to me who works solely on mainstream apparatus. Fredrik perhaps sees my discovery and murmurs again, “yes”. It find it not easy to travel inward, a little confused, I begin to experiment with a subtle internal pull to facilitate the complete return of the carriage. Again from Fredrik, “yes”. I am not sure I like it, but continue. “Yes”, says you know who, and giggles “I keep repeating yes but and do not really know why!” “I believe it is because I am working so beautifully”, I say helpfully (and hopefully).
Fredrik and Elisabet laugh, me too, and confirm that indeed my footwork is astounding. But then I remember that this is a very serious interview, for my very serious newsletter! So I heroically pluck myself away from my need for attention, and get back to the business at hand.
Fredrik explains, “To perform each exercise at its fullest potential, the last centimeters of the movement need to be without tension, much of the work is done here, think elephant”. I give elephant a try. Fredrik instructs “all the way in” with each of my thrusts forward of the carriage. Usually with elephant I do not bring the carriage fully in so as to avoid the crash that has always occurs on other reformers. But now I engage more deeply and am more conscious as I bring the carriage to its resting place, and I sense a more lively inner quality. Lovely, the apparatus informs me that how to use my center. I start to see their point, and benefit from their vision.
I myself have difficulties teaching elephant and knee stretches, getting my students to understand that the point is not to push the carriage out. “What a fantastic help in teaching knee stretches and elephant,” I exclaim. They laugh, “We just had a customer call the other day to tell us the very same thing!”
Moving on, Fredrik shows me the greater firmness of the rubber coated aluminum foot bar in their design, remarking that one can more easily grip the bar and maintain a straight wrist. Fredrik explains, “Ensuring a straight wrist facilitates a connection to the powerhouse. Just as links in a chain, every joint is important; a weak link results in a loss of energy and efficiency.”
Fredrik puts me on my back for coordination, “in in in in in in in in, deep deep deep deep deep deep” as I release the leather straps to bring the carriage in, I am truly pulling in and up more than I have before in this exercise. “Yeeees”, Fredrik encourages in unison with the final glide of the carriage those last few centimeters. I am getting tired, but I like it, I experience an engagement of greater depth.
So how did they get into this business in the first place? According to Elisabet, “we were impressed with traditional equipment, we loved it. But to buy and ship from New York doubled the cost for us. So it was partly for financial reasons that we wanted to start to build our own. But as we have deepened in our practice, we simply do not presently find anything that really meets our sensitivity. Our reformer is designed to do so, and in that we find we have created something unique.”
Fredrik continues, “our endeavor is to make beautiful equipment with the potential to give an experience. We are dedicated to deepening into the Pilates method ourselves while developing our ability to teach others. Together, Elisabet and I have 40 years of experience of the method, and we use this in our design. We are deeply interested in enhancing the lives of those who are open to it, and enjoy ourselves in the process. Hopefully, we are an example of the benefits that we have to offer.”
By the looks of it, I’d say the execution of Fredrik’s and Elisabet’s vision is progressing beautifully. I travelled home not only having gained 2 lovely friends, but also a greater sensitivity that I can apply to my practice, and life. The Prags endeavor is truly that of quality, artistry and love. Even if you are not in the market for apparatus, I recommend a closer look at the work they are doing, you are sure to learn something new.
Fredrik and Elisabet are the owners of Pilates Scandinavia, a studio dedicated to the classical technique in Stockholm. Learn more about the apparatus designed and built by Fredrik and Elisabet here.
Permission to duplicate only with full credits given to Brett Miller, www.pilatesintel.com