Our new columnist for 2023 is Suzanne Hill from the School of Classical Pilates near Colchester. In this first column, she introduces Pilates and its benefits.
Pilates. The name is ubiquitous, but not the founder’s full name – Joseph Pilates. The exercise system is his legacy. It’s not always well-known that Joseph devised the system to rehabilitate soldiers after the Second World War. When I established my studio five years ago, having practiced the discipline as a client for twenty years, I wanted to communicate my training and teaching were founded in the original works – hence The School of Classical Pilates.
It might interest you to know that Pilates was only devised around 50 years ago and yet it’s now known globally. Ultimately, it’s known, and respected, because the system successfully rehabilitates individuals with a wide range of injuries and/or disabilities. I have first-hand experience of its powers with my own clients daily; clients who have broken their back, had a hip replacement, or just lost confidence in using their body after an injury. Pilates returns them to life. It also helps individuals to prevent future injuries by uniformly developing muscles. We all lose condition throughout our largely sedentary lives. We develop movement patterns that are rarely challenged, or have an awareness of, and the system offers a means of challenging those patterns, by enabling the individual to go on the journey of uniformly developing themselves.
One of the biggest challenges in starting the discipline is becoming versed in the new way of moving in a conscious way, rather than mechanically moving, as we largely do. It can help to think of the discipline as a martial art. It demands the same mind-body engagement. As Joseph Pilates was quoted as saying: “it is the mind that shapes the body.”
Everyone talks about Mat Pilates, but it’s only one element of Pilates, which comprises around 500 exercises over four pieces of large apparatus, and numerous specialist pieces. The mat is the most well-known, due to the ease and low cost of introducing it, as you only need a mat. The other apparatus that are often talked about are the Reformer and the less well-known Cadillac and Chair.
I developed an interest in Pilates, during my first career, twenty-two years ago, while heading up the research team in a well-known executive search firm. They offered Mat Pilates classes in the boardroom after work. I took the opportunity to try it one day and noticed a different response throughout my whole body immediately. The session was so peculiar, playful, challenging and engaging. I found myself laughing at how hard it was. I’d always thought I was fit. I was… I was just not uniformly developed.
It was only after losing my strength during and after pregnancy that I fully appreciated the need to work hard at maintaining the gift of health and continue to work at it, both for myself and now others.
I look forward to sharing my insights into Pilates with you over the coming year and encourage you to look up a Pilates school close to you. It truly does bring many benefits and nourishes body, mind, and soul.
• Suzanne Hill at School of Classical Pilates
The Bishops House, Rectory Road, Frating, Colchester CO7 7HQ