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    Pilates at the Pilates Pod in Hitchin

     

    I have done pilates on and off since getting pregnant, with the reformer as well as just mat work. I got into it mainly because of back issues. Recently I have only been doing mat work, and it felt great to go back on the reformer. I had been thinking about reintroducing some reformer work into my exercise routine, and the invitation to review a studio in Hitchin was the perfect excuse. The Pilates Pod studio follows the method as developed by Joe Pilates, developed mainly for men 100 years ago. A traditional Pilates workout at The Pod is performed on apparatus that uses springs for resistance instead of weight. I loved learning more about the origins of Pilates, and of ‘Contrology’. It definitely changed my view of Pilates, and probably my approach on the mat going forward. Michelle got me at ‘transforming your body’ with the resistance. Mat work according to the Method is for in-between sessions – I need a serious review of the efficiency of my current routine.

    It does feel strange to be invited to review a pilates studio for this blog. After all pilates is not the first exercise (or ever the exercise) people mention when you start talking about depression (unlike running or yoga). However pilates is the only form of exercise I have stuck to for the past year and a half, and likely to continue for many more years. Following the invitation to review, I did mention that I had a very specific angle that I wanted to explore, that of PTSD. Michelle was so excited about being able to investigate how I thought Pilates helps me, that we had organised the one-on-one class and an interview (that will come soon).

    I came in thinking I was half an hour late. Not good. I was not, I misread the message. I was dead on time when I walked in the door. First big sigh of relief. Michelle gave me a big hug when she saw me, like long lost friends. I felt at ease. In fact we have friends in common, Hertfordshire is clearly a smaller county than I expected. We started the workout immediately and I was on the reformer trying to put my feet correctly and started pushing, and trying (desperately) to bring the reformer back to neutral (not as easy as it sounds).

    I had been working out with loud music at quite an intense rate prior to changing my whole exercise routine to something more gentle on my ears and my heart rate. Pilates has become a sign of change, a need to work my body as a whole and being present whilst doing it. Spinning was my way of running (or cycling) away from myself. I needed the dark and the fast pace to lose myself. It was the phase I was in then. Loss and grief, and sadness comes in waves and phases. I am in a new phase where I need to feel my whole body and feel like I need to exercise for the long term. Acknowledging that you are interested in your future, and worth the effort, is not self-evident when you have depression.

    A pilates studio such as the Pilates Pod is interesting as it is entirely dedicated to pilates with posters on the wall, reformers, towers, and other parts of the apparatus with even stranger names. The whole space is dedicated to the original Pilates Method. You will get the original experience, based on the Principles developed by Joe Pilates 100 years ago – breath, whole-body health and whole-body commitment; with the whole-body encompassing mind, body and spirit. This is not a multi-function room nor an experience you can recreate at home easily. I found the session uniquely hard (if that even makes sense), and although I thought my core strength was ok, even after 3 c-sections, it was a hard session, not sweaty hard, but I felt stronger for it.

    I love the idea that the workout follows a structure that will help you see your progress, session after session. It is not easy to acknowledge progress, but rewarding when you can feel you are getting better, either physically and/or emotionally. In our interview we talked a lot about control. I know that this is a major issue of mine. I was already a control-freak, now I have to work really hard to accept change. We have come a long way. But as you can imagine having an already established set Method to follow totally appeals to me.

    The next step was for me to go beyond the anecdotal. The practice of sports activities on a regular basis is usually mentioned as a powerful means to improve your mental wellbeing, rightly so. But has the regular practice of pilates been studied and proven to improve depression? Indeed it has. One study involved depressed women at a residential battered women’s center who did 30-45 minutes of Pilates, 3 days a week in a group class setting over a 12 week period. The researchers measured levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter known for its mood-boosting effects, as a scientific proxy for depression before the women began Pilates and once again after the 12 weeks were complete. In addition to serotonin, they measured depression levels by a 21 question survey called Beck Depression Inventory commonly used in research and clinical settings. After 12 weeks of regular Pilates classes, the women had a significant increase in serotonin and 34% drop in severity of depression. That level of improvement rivals the effects of some SSRIs, a class of anti-depressant medications that target serotonin’s action in the brain. As I mentioned the practice of sports activities will probably yield similar or better results as shown in this comparative study. What stands Pilates apart from many other forms of exercise is how it works your body differently. Whilst some other exercises may cause stress and injuries, pilates can keep you safe from unwanted harm. It can help to develop a healthy body by promoting blood to run deeply into your whole system, instead of causing localised stress.

    Thank you Michelle for having me at the Pilates Pod, I learnt a lot about my exercise routine, enabling to move forward.

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One comment
Pilates at the Pilates Pod in Hitchin

  • Susan Snooks says:

    Hi Nat, I have been doing a small class Pilates for nearly a year now and I can certainly say how good it makes me feel. Even though I can only afford to go once a week, it is the highlight of my week. I am getting stronger and even seeing more definition in my legs and arms….not bad for a 62 year old. I hope you continue to see the benefit of not just exercise, but Pilates more specifically. You are often in my thoughts and prayers.