Following the others into the studio, I too grabbed a mat and what looked like a kicking board and a fat pool noodle. If we were two floors down – in the pool, say – this would have been more expected but for Pilates I was baffled.
The teacher came in and took up a mat at the front of the class. ‘Any injuries before we begin?‘ she asked. A lady who’d been softly mumbling too herself since coming in said ‘Yes, my shoulder.‘ ‘And when has this been sore from?‘ ‘January‘ she replied. ‘Oh, quite a while then – did anything trigger it?‘ ‘Well I had to be restrained…‘ ‘..Ah. Well take it easy and if it hurts don’t push it.‘ Moving right along…
I tried to take my mind off the fact that I was touching mats with a crazy and started with some deep, slow breathing before we went into a series of stretches and movements all designed to strengthen the muscles along your spine; your core. At one point the kick board foam block went between our knees while we were doing leg stretches, and the noodle was used under us along our spine to encourage balance for a few other stretches.
Pilates classes all follow the guide of Joseph Pilates, left, a German guy who referred to his method as ‘contrology’. The various poses and stretches combined with deep breathing encourage flexibility and balance. Although it became a more ‘in vogue’ hobby in the past decade, Joseph’s first book about it was published as early as 1934. Despite all the photos of Joseph, Pilates is not regularly practiced in white underwear.
When the class had finished I stumbled out into the sunlight, like in movie when someone wakes up in a make-shift hospital bed in an abandoned warehouse, unplugs their drip and opens a door. It’s always sunny and disorienting. Similar to that, but with all my organs, it took me a few minutes to slink back into the pace outside. Pilates builds your core, I get that, but there’s also something calming about it, about the regular breathing and focusing on the moment that stops the constant thinking.
What I like about Pilates is that you can go to a few sessions and safely continue at home if you so choose. Some people feed off group energy, but as it’s not an aerobics class you don’t need a teacher to push you.
- Cost – £
- Energy – Low – we were offered various ways to do some of the more challenging stretches to accommodate those with limited movement.
- Sociability – Not very strong in this department, especially if the group includes a nut case, but on the upside it’s an activity you can very easily and happily do on your own.
- Equipment needed – Standard gym gear and a mat, pool noodle and kick board.
Want to give it a go?
Once again most gyms offer classes in Pilates to members and non. For a few others around London, untried: