Is Pilates the answer to improving your wellbeing?
In the next of her fortnightly wellness columns, Hannah Bullimore shares what she learned about herself by visiting a local Pilates reformer studio in Newcastle.
By Hannah Bullimore
It’s fair to say that Pilates is having a moment.
Whether you’re on YouTube, Tik Tok or Instagram, you’ll find someone moving elegantly on a reformer.
While I’m a long-time yogi, I’ve never tried Pilates. But I have heard great things. The exercise is meant to build strength, improve flexibility and even help with injury. I’ve been especially tempted by the reformer Pilates I’ve seen online because it looks fun and is something different to my usual fitness routine of yoga classes and walking.
However, I was a little intimidated. The reformer looks quite intense and these Insta girls are STRONG.
I, meanwhile, am not.
I took some time to research my options for Pilates in the North East and found a reformer pilates studio called PilatEASE UK in Newcastle.
Nicci, the owner, was extremely welcoming and knowledgeable so that as well as giving you the lowdown on the class experience, I also gained some insight into Pilates to share with you…
PilatEASE UK is a hidden gem.
Upstairs from the street there is little noise as you enter the waiting area. At first, the place seems cosy and small, but it opens up into an impressive range of spaces and studios.
The reformer studio has seven machines, meaning that each attendee gets a lot of support from their instructor and entering a class doesn’t feel intimidating.
There are also two treatment rooms where Bloom Well-Being offers a range of treatments (more on that later). There’s also a new gym space replicating the original Pilates gym invented by Joseph Pilates with a range of apparatus to assist your practice.
At first, I was nervous about using the reformer, but Nicci explained how to use the various springs and equipment as we went through the class.
We began by standing and moving through some gentle exercises to get in touch with alignment and our core muscles.
We then did a series of exercises on the reformer moving through the various areas of the body; legs, arms, core, back. And boy, does that reformer work parts of the body you didn’t know could be worked!
It felt amazing on my hip flexors and the inner thighs and I was definitely engaging my core, which is something I struggle with.
By the end of the class, I felt stretched; my muscles knew they’d had a workout, but I wasn’t too fatigued or sweaty. The class felt like the perfect way to work a range of muscles and I can see that using the different springs on the machine would mean you can build difficulty and strength at your own pace over a number of weeks.
THE BENEFITS OF PILATES
After my class, I was keen to learn more and Nicci, owner of PilatEASE, was more than happy to help.
She began by talking about how she discovered Pilates.
‘I often saw Pilates classes on fitness timetables but never gave it much thought until I hurt my back and my Chiropractor recommended Pilates to strengthen my core and keep my back strong,’ she says. ‘I loved it so much, I trained as an instructor.’
Nicci explained that Pilates is suitable for almost everyone. ‘I am yet to meet anyone that didn’t feel better or move better with Pilates on the Reformer. We work with all ages – our youngest is 16 and our oldest is 82.’
Nicci told me that she has clients coming to classes for a range of reasons: from sports injury to back pain and joint issues. She also has clients who attend lessons to see improvement in their performance in a range of sports such as golf, weight-lifting and running.
‘The potential benefits [of Pilates] are a life free from pain,’ she says. ‘Imagine feeling great, moving well and either reducing your risk of pain in your body or actually living a pain-free life.’
For anyone heading to Pilates for the first time, Nicci recommends finding the class that’s right for you (something she is more than happy to help with). She also says it’s important to bring grippy socks whether you’ll be on a mat or a reformer.
‘Our classes are separated into Reduce Pain, Move Better and Get Fitter – so, what does your body need?’
Nicci explained that you can get advice on which class to try first by signing up for a trial pass (£7 for 7 days) and speaking to the studio directly. As well as this, Nicci offers private sessions for up to two people if you would prefer to try Pilates on your own before going to a group class.
Grace of Bloom Well-Being was kind enough to invite me for a treatment at the wellbeing hub.
The treatment room is a bright space that feels like a little slice of heaven above the busy street below.
Grace took a thorough history and explained that she specialises in helping anyone with long-term pain, injury or those who are simply looking to feel better. She spent time putting me at ease and discussing the different treatments she offers.
I lay down on the heated treatment bed and enjoyed a beautiful back massage. I have recently had issues with my back and lots of tension in my jaw and neck, causing headaches. The massage helped to ease out my knots and relax my whole body.
I felt taller, lighter and about five years younger by the time I left the wellbeing hub that day.
THE BENEFITS OF MASSAGE
After my treatment, I interviewed Grace to understand what she does and the benefits of massage more fully.
To begin with, Grace explained how she became interested in massage therapy.
‘I’ve been going for massage therapy since I was 14, (I’m 37 now),’ she says. ‘I used to get a regular massage to help with growing pains.’
Time spent at a yoga retreat 12 years ago led to her pursuing her own career in massage. She explained that she loves ‘introducing people to massage and seeing their faces, posture and mood change after each session.’
I was interested to learn how massage could compliment an exercise and wellness routine. Grace explained that it’s complimentary to all kinds of physical activity because it ‘enables people to move more freely, with less pain and with more confidence.’ Not only that, but massage increases the speed at which people recover from injury.
‘My approach to wellbeing and health is completely holistic,’ Grace says. ‘By this, I mean looking beyond just the physical aspects of our clients’ lives to help with pain management.’
During my treatment, Grace asked about any injuries and health problems, but she also asked about my work and what I would like to feel after my treatment.
‘During our initial evaluation, we use a bio-psycho-social model to prescribe the correct treatment plan for a wide variety of people,’ she explains. ‘This includes not only the standard medical history, postural and range of movement checks, but also getting to know our client’s personalities, backgrounds and how they’re feeling on the day of their treatment. I also incorporate my trauma-informed research and practice to help our clients relax and feel safe, which is where I believe that incredible healing can happen.’
I really appreciated the time Grace took getting to know me and my own history before beginning the hands-on part of the treatment. I am someone who hasn’t always felt comfortable with massage, but she put me at ease and began by massaging over the top of blankets before massaging my skin, which helped me to relax more deeply.
I felt safe with Grace and could see myself returning for further treatments with her.
‘We take a person-centric approach to your health and will help you find the right path into feeling more confident, more self assured and more energised through our treatments,’ she summed up.
Grace offers support to individuals with a range of needs: from long-Covid and inflammatory disease to sports injury.
If you’re wondering where to start, Grace suggests that ‘a nice introduction might be a bespoke facial, as you can remain fully clothed while we massage the face, neck, shoulders and head. If you’re unsure of what to book, we’re here to talk through your options. Remember, all our treatments are available to everybody.’
I had a lovely morning at PilatEASE and would definitely recommend the ultimate combination of class and treatment.