My last article, about the discovery of a pilates studio in Wells (and subsequent training there), ended with a question: "…how to maintain those results when I leave town?"
Well, it appears that my question has been well and truly answered for when in Bath area!
Just two days after I posted that article, I was walking down London Road (near to my lodgings) when I saw the 'Open Day' sign outside this brand new studio there, and I was able to go in and have a lovely chat with the owners. Phil and Elaine were so welcoming and knowledgeable; I instantly knew they would be my next pilates teachers.
I was eager to get started working on my tired, aching body, so today was my first one-to-one session with Phil.
Now (Dec 2016 - Jan 2017) is an excellent time to go and check this place out and reserve some private introductory sessions. They have some great opening offers - well worth a look.
Phil, a trained actor who enjoys the greater ease of movement and freedom of expression, which Pilates gives the human body, explained that often there is a disconnection between the mind and body (loss of 'proprioception'); and that's when our joints don't hold in place – people tend to sit in their joints and squash them. He described how pilates encourages suspension and levity in the joints.
Elaine explained how the Reformer machines really work. Originally designed by Joseph Pilates, they are designed to support your body, using SPRINGS instead of weights; to make you more "springy!" as your body returns to its neutral position gracefully, from the resistance of springs.
She explained how the mat work came first, but because not everyone could do the mat exercises correctly, the equipment evolved later to help people learn how to do the mat work technically correctly.
Read on, about my private introductory Reformer session...
Upon arrival at The Pilates Quarter after filling in my assessment form, Phil took some time to assess my posture and range of movement, and discussed my body issues with me before proceeding with the reformer session. I felt I was in safe hands, as he quickly understood what I needed to work on.
He observed my habits well: how my body over-compensates in certain areas for lack of strength in others. For example, there tends to be a lot of tension in my left side and my left sacro-illiac joint rotates as a result. I tend to over-straighten my middle of my back and pull my shoulders back too far, military-style - a habit which was drummed into me at school. My knees tend to lock because my weight is not balanced and suspended in the joints. And my left abs work a lot harder than my right abs. In short, I sorely need this again (after a year of not doing pilates)!
Next, I was introduced to the equipment. Phil was very good at explaining how everything works, and has a reassuring wisdom and calmness about him. And as I had used the same kind of equipment before, we got straight into it.
When you practice pilates, you have to really concentrate on what you're doing. The constant supervision of the instructor is necessary until synchronising your breath with the controlled movements becomes second nature; keeping the right muscles engaged at all times. But although it's a challenge, it is one that feels so good to do.
My whole body rejoices, as it releases so much tension and balances itself. I enjoy the feeling of both stretching and strengthening at the same time; the smooth movements my limbs make and their graceful return to a more balanced neutral position. The improvement is felt very quickly on the reformer equipment.
It is very different from using gym equipment, where you get the distinct feeling that you're working a bicep or a thigh; here, you get the distinct feeling you're using muscles you never knew you had, and that you're moving in just the right way with just the right amount of resistance to balance and align you.