Thursday 5 May 2016

Task 18: Join a Pilates class

If you've read my recent lindy hop blog, you may have noted how I highlighted my problems with poor posture, back stiffness and lack of flexibility. It all started when I became a lanky teenager and tried to disguise my height.  Why oh why didn't I pay more attention to my mother as she endlessly reminded me to put my shoulders back and chin up....?  My shiatsu practitioner Paulette has done an amazing job of helping me to keep the stiffness and discomfort at bay over the years. From time to time it's occurred to me that I might also benefit from some Pilates classes.  

Surely a match made in heaven? And yet somehow I never got round to actually joining a Pilates class. Once again, the sixtyat60 list came to the rescue. Time to give up on my idea of developing a later-life career as Mrs Overall's body double.

With some of my tasks I've had to do a fair amount of research to identify an appropriate source of guidance and/or instruction. But not so Task 18. For 3 years until my retirement I had the fortune to run my private psychotherapy practice at The Physio Therapy Centre in Haywards Heath. The Centre boasts a fantastic team of skilled physiotherapists and other health care practitioners, supported by lovely reception staff. Added to which the Centre is based in a beautiful Victorian house with high ceilings, large windows and loads of period features. I think you can tell I liked working there.  And when it came to finding myself a Pilates teacher, frankly I was spoilt for choice.

In January I had an initial assessment with Jayne Lord, one of the physiotherapists who runs Clinical Pilates classes at the Centre. It was clear that years of slouching, tending to small children, hunching over a computer screen and sitting immobile in a therapist's chair had taken their toll on my body in a big way. Jayne patiently guided me through some absolute beginners' Pilates exercises, starting with the fundamental Pilates principle of neutral spine (finding the natural curve of my back), and then going on to do shoulder bridges and one leg stretches. I couldn't believe how difficult it was to do the exercises precisely. I could see I had a lot to learn. But Jayne was very upbeat, and assured me that with regular practice things would get easier.

In late Spring I joined one of Jayne's beginner classes for my first six-week course. Very exciting! Jayne limits the class to six people, which means that she can keep a careful eye on everyone individually. I've learnt to do a range of beginner's exercises and have been introduced to massage balls and balance pads. I'm always struck by how flowing, graceful and balletic Pilates exercises look when they're done properly - Jayne could blend perfectly into a performance of Swan Lake (I'd definitely be consigned to scenery shifting duties). Here's the class in week 6. I'm trying my hardest to look relaxed and serene whilst not toppling over. 

Apparently it takes 10 Pilates sessions to feel the difference, 20 sessions to see the difference and that in 30 sessions I'll be on my way to having a whole new body. I can't wait! I've certainly noticed that I'm becoming much more tuned into my posture and breathing. And during our recent 5-day Wales Coast Path walk, I only experienced back stiffness and discomfort briefly one morning, which is amazing. I'm a long way from mastering the exercises and my balance is still abysmal, especially with my eyes closed. But as Joseph Pilates said....

And since I think Pilates classes are a very worthwhile endeavour indeed, I shall definitely be persisting with them well beyond the end of my sixtyat60 challenge.

My very grateful thanks to Jayne for welcoming me into one of her classes and for being such a brilliant teacher - always encouraging, positive and diplomatic, with highly professional attention to detail.  And it's a real pleasure to be attending a class in a healthcare setting that I know and love.  Perhaps in 24 sessions' time, I'll be able to look at myself in a video clip and give myself a small pat on my nicely aligned back..... ?

I'm doing the sixtyat60challenge to raise funds for Shooting Star Chase children's hospice care in memory of a special little girl called Thea Redford. 

For further information or to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page at

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