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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Pilates for Every Body: Uncovering the Mystery of this Modality

Jun 01, 2016 07:22AM ● By Julianne Hale

Photo : Joseph DeRuvo Jr., Rhinebeck Pilates

Most of us have heard of Pilates. We may have tried a class at the gym a few years ago or watched an infomercial once upon a time but many of us are not exactly sure what the practice is. Elaine Ewing, owner of Rhinebeck Pilates, says, “When I’m asked to describe Pilates, I like to quote Romana Kryzanowska, Pilates elder and protégé of Founder Joseph Pilates. She said, ‘You can say what Pilates is in three words: stretch with strength and control. The control part is the most important because that makes you use your mind.’”

Tina Sferra, owner of Elite Performance Physical Therapy of Westchester, PC, describes the physicality of practice. “Pilates creates length, strength and power,” she explains. “It activates your core, creates a powerhouse, develops a balanced body and preserves your spine, which is the basis of your whole life.” Sferra combines Pilates with physical therapy for individuals suffering with pain or recovering from injuries.

“Pilates is therapeutic,” she says. “It incorporates low reps with fundamental alignment and creates muscle synergies. Pilates is energy refreshing, not energy draining. When performed correctly, it can help reduce the injuries of daily life rather than cause them.”

Demystifying the Practice: What Newbies Can Expect

Like many exercises, Pilates can be intimidating for those who haven’t tried it. Fear not, the ability to hold a plank position for ten minutes straight is not a requirement. “Anyone can do Pilates,” says Ewing. “At my studio, we’ve taught men and women from ages 10 to 84 with many different body types.” She suggests beginning with private, one-on-one sessions where students can become familiar with the equipment, the order of exercises and the language of Pilates.

Sferra also likes to meet with new clients on a one-on-one basis before they embark on a new practice. She explains, “When a new person arrives for their first visit, there is a short personal interview about health, past and present movement history, injury history and more, as well as motivation and goals.” Sferra then performs a posture evaluation and puts clients on a Pilates Reformer, allowing her to really study and understand how their body works and where to start.

“Activating the core and supporting the frame to move the spine with ease is the ultimate goal of Pilates,” says Sferra. “I always tell my clients that the primary goal is form, which yields efficient function. Fitness and looking good are the free bonus.”

The Latest Advancements

As with all exercise modalities, Pilates is constantly evolving. Individuals who haven’t practiced in a while may be excited to learn about the new offerings that are available. Elite Performance Physical Therapy offers the Pilates Physioball, Pilates Chair, Pilates Reformer and the Pilates Tower. Sferra combines all of this equipment to create an extensive workout that requires only five repetitions.

Ewing notes the new equipment at Rhinebeck Pilates. “Some of our new, rarer pieces of equipment include The Arm Chair, The Guillotine and The Swedish Bars,” she says. “I’ve had Pilates teachers and students come from hours away to visit my studio just to get on this equipment.” Clients can use these apparatuses to incorporate movements into their practices that would not be possible otherwise.  

Taking Pilates to the Next Level

For some, the practice of Pilates becomes a passion that they feel compelled to share. The best way to go about this is to become a Pilates teacher. Rhinebeck Pilates will offer a Classical Pilates Teacher Training Program beginning January 2017. Taught by Jennifer DeLuca of Body Tonic Pilates, in Brooklyn, the class features 500 hours of seminars, practice, teaching practice and observation.

Sources: Elaine Ewing, Rhinebeck Pilates, 6400 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck, NY, 845.876.5686 or; Tina Sferra, Elite Performance Physical Therapy of Westchester, PC, 41 Main St., Bedford Hills, NY, 917.476.2164.