London-based Pilates instructor Julia was trained by Alan Herdman who pioneered Pilates in the UK back in the 1970’.s
We spoke to Julia about the wellbeing benefits and philosophies of Pilates
How did you first get into Pilates?
I have always been active, running, biking, hiking, going to fitness classes and military boot camps! Although I felt I had high fitness levels, I never really felt confident with my body shape or posture. Then, I tried Pilates and it felt totally different.
Pilates changed me, it was like getting to know my body in a whole new way. I felt stronger and taller, my clothes fit better and my body moved more easily. Muscles started to lengthen and balance out and my body shape changed. I went down a jean size and felt more flexible than ever before. I also loved the relaxation and calmness that it gave me, I floated out of the session feeling taller, energised and in good shape. I was hooked.
Before teaching Pilates I worked in Fashion and then in the City. I used to rush out of the office to go to my Pilates classes. Now I run sessions in company offices as part of their ‘Employee Wellbeing’. It’s great for individuals to feel the benefits of unwinding and re-energising and the employers gain the benefits from helping their workforce stay healthy.
What are the benefits of Pilates on both mental and physical wellbeing?
Pilates focuses the mind and body together. Its so different from our fast-paced screen fixated modern world, it gives us time to re-link and experience a sense of calm and feel re-energised.
Pilates works toward a balanced body and posture by strengthening the weaker muscles and stretching out tighter ones, which helps us stand and sit straight, creating positive body language and improving confidence.
By working to strengthen what is often called the ‘corset muscles’ of our torso,it helps avoid back pain and can also help create a great waistline.
Can Pilates boost happy endorphins and help with relaxation?
In Pilates the breath pattern is used to focus and help with different movements, it’s also a great way for people to release tension from different parts of the bodies. Pilates activates the parasympathetic nervous system lowering adrenaline and cortisol levels, promoting a more relaxed state.
Is it an exercise that all ages and pregnant women can partake in?
Absolutely the great thing about Pilates is its low impact and suitable for all ages, I teach younger clients through to people in their 80’s.
Pilates can be really beneficial for pregnant women. There is a lot of strain on the body during pregnancy especially the lower back and pelvis, so working the muscles in a way to help support these changes is important.
What should you look for when choosing a class or teacher?
Its important to look into the training and background of the teacher. Working one-to-one or in small groups is ideal. For group Matwork around 10 people to a class means that the teacher has more time to spend cueing and correcting.
After that I think the key is to find a teacher that you enjoy working with!
Why does Pilates have such a large celebrity following?
Celebrities are scrutinised on their appearance and I think they turn to the method that works for them. Pilates is a great for working towards a longer and stronger body.
It’s also popular for celebrities post pregnancy wanting to get their bodies back into shape by strengthening their core muscles.