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Exploring Life & Business with Anna Claire Brunelli of Cultivate Pilates

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anna Claire Brunelli.

Hi Anna Claire, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
A native of Austin, Texas, I am a NPCP Certified instructor with a degree in Modern Dance Performance (OU). I’ve danced my whole life, and like most dancers, I was eventually exposed to the Pilates Method. I was lucky enough to find it a bit earlier than most, at age 12, under a longtime teacher and family friend, who later trained me to become an instructor.

After receiving my equipment certification in January of 2012, I moved to Denver, CO where I began acquiring a group of loyal clients who have followed me year after year. After teaching at a few studios in Denver, I met studio owner Clara Gelatt and helped open Pilates Collective Denver in October of 2016. Acting as Studio Manager, Program Coordinator and Lead Instructor, I helped co-create an amazing studio where we could delve into the science and theories of the Pilates method and support a community of clients empowered by understanding their bodies, in and out of the studio.

As a dancer, I understand the mechanics of movement and the beauty of what the human body is capable of achieving. But as a dancer who has had career-altering injuries, I have also learned what it’s like to lose range of motion, the ability to access certain muscles, and the struggle it can be to regain them!

I have taught clients who range in age from 10-85 and have worked with athletes, seniors, those with neurological issues and everything in between. I specialize in working with injuries and limitations of all kinds, with the common goal of finding ways for my clients to nourish their bodies back to health with the power of Pilates.

I truly believe I was meant to teach people and help them cultivate the knowledge to understand the body’s inner workings. I’ve spent most of my life learning how to create nourishing movement and exploring all that the human body is capable of. And I love empowering my clients to understand their bodies and helping them achieve their physical goals.

Fast forward to 2020, my husband and I moved back home to Austin, where I eventually started my own Pilates studio from our home. I started Cultivate Pilates in March of 2021 and am lucky enough to already have a full schedule and an amazing community of Pilates practitioners.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I’d say SOME things have been relatively smooth. Generally, when I set out to do something, I believe in my ability to get things done. I love a good to do list and am highly motivated when I put my mind toward something I’m passionate about. However…

The real struggle for me in business and in teaching has always come down to emotional longevity and sustainability. People can be exhausting and teaching them can be fatiguing on a different level. Helping “civilians” learn how to reconnect with a body they’ve been out of touch with is so rewarding but also crazy challenging. Especially when you’re trying to help people recover from physical trauma, pain or injury, it’s hard as an empath not to be overwhelmed by the energies of others.

The longer I taught, the more clear my boundaries and limits for teaching became. I quickly learned how many hours a day I could teach before becoming burnt out. Then I slowly started teaching more private lessons and duets instead of classes. I found teaching multiple people at once depleted my internal resources faster than the one on one sessions.

Overall, there are always ups and downs to any career. But I’d consider myself lucky that I’ve been able to set out and attain every goal and dream (with help) I’ve had for myself thus far!

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Cultivate Pilates?
I think the biggest thing that separates me from the general Pilates teacher is my ability to go beyond the more commonly taught “Classical” exercises. I use some of the exercises and ideas behind the original repertoire (created by Joseph Pilates) and alter them to fit clientele who can’t perform them as they were intended for some reason or another. Whether it’s through the use of props, or modifications of the exercise themselves, I like to have a handful of options for each client so they find the safest way to perform each exercise.

While a lot of studios say Pilates is for “every body”, it’s a truly challenging technique, and not all bodies are capable of performing it without hurting themselves simply to achieve the “look”.

When I first started teaching in Denver I had a group of “beginners” who were so different in body types, ages and ability, I literally had no idea how to all teach them the beginner reformer series. One of my clients couldn’t even get her feet in the straps, which is a big deal in classes. I basically had to rework how I taught this method with the realization that not everyone can physically perform even the “simpler” exercises.

BUT, that shouldn’t mean they don’t get to benefit from Pilates method. In Denver, I created a “Gentle Pilates” program that was originally catered towards older clientele but eventually opened up doors to any and all clients with injuries, chronic pain, MS, and more. Our Gentle program consisted of 10 classes a week for those who loved the method and couldn’t go beyond a certain “level” but still enjoyed all the strengthening, lengthening, balance and the other million benefits that come from doing the method on the machinery.

I’ve continued this more “holistic” and flexible approach to the Pilates Method with Cultivate Pilates because I want anyone and everyone to feel the benefits of Pilates in a safe and nurturing manner. My slogan is “CUL-TI-VATE: to improve or develop with careful attention, training and study.” When done thoughtfully and safely, I believe this method can be enjoyed for a person’s whole life!

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
Ugh, this is a tough one. I have a ton of lovely childhood memories that include summer road trips with my mom and cousins to the east coast. I also had tons of fun growing up in Austin, swimming with my friends at Barton Springs, and driving up and down The Drag yelling nice things to people when we had cars and nothing to do.

Contact Info:

  • Email:
  • Website:
  • Instagram: cultivate_pilates

Image Credits
Photos by: Oddalys Salcido

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