Pilates has always struck me as the sort of thing that people more stylish than me do, like making pasta from scratch and having dried flowers artfully arranged around their homes.
I found the whole thing a little bit frightening, but I’m happy to report that, having given the excellent Pilates by Janessa a go, I’m a definite convert, and the only dried flowers in my apartment are houseplants I haven’t watered in a few months.
I took an Open Level Expat Pilates class, and though it was challenging at times, it was never out of my comfort zone (and I’m not crazy fit by any means!). I felt it a bit the next day, but in a good way rather than that ‘oh heck I’ve broken myself’ way so familiar to us mind-is-willing-but-the-body-prefers-to-lie-on-the-sofa sort of exercisers. The class was small, consisting of just six expats, so there was a friendly atmosphere that felt welcoming and non-intimidating.
Janessa, a dancer and choreographer from New York, explained that pilates is all about strengthening your body so that it can dance, do Crossfit, run marathons, chase toddlers… whatever you need it to do. The concept was originally developed as a rehabilitative practice, with a focus on strengthening and balancing your core, or “powerhouse.” It’s all about controlled and strong as opposed to faster and harder, and though it’s gentle in some ways, it is most definitely a pleasantly challenging workout.
I might consider taking a beginner or private session before returning to open level, only because, with pilates there’s quite a bit to remember when you’re not used to it: like yoga, you’re breathing and pulling your tummy button into your spine and stretching yourself in opposite directions, all in addition to doing the movement. A couple of times I felt as though I would have liked to stop to get all that straight in my head, but Janessa was great at gently reminding us to breathe or stretch, or helping to move us into the right position, so I never felt overwhelmed or left behind.
The Expat Pilates sessions (there are several a week, see the website for more details) is a particular bonus of Pilates by Janessa. Not only is it an opportunity to work out without also struggling to follow Swedish instruction, there’s a social element with monthly Expat Outings, providing the opportunity to meet and socialize with other expats!