By Emily J. Weitz
On the heels of Memorial Day Weekend, all eyes are focused on the horizon: Summer. And along with the endless sun-soaked days comes a truth that can be hard to stomach: it’s bathing suit season. There is no shortage of ways to tone up your body here on the East End, from personal training sessions to cleanses. But Pilates is a method that draws strength from the core: an area of the body that is quick to pack on the pounds in winter.
“Pilates is uniquely beneficial,” says Lesa Salvani, Director of In Balance Studio here in Sag Harbor, “because it develops the core muscles, meaning you’ll stand a little taller and feel super confident in your swimsuit this season. Pilates will complement those muscles that keep you flexible, strong and balanced.”
Pilates is a system that was developed by German émigré Joseph Pilates 85 years ago. Pilates worked with lots of dancers to keep their bodies healthy and their spines supple. He memorably said that age is not measured by the years a person has lived, but by the suppleness of their spine. Through specifically designed machines like the Universal Reformer, the Trapeze Table, the Step Barrel, and others, the exercise regimen offers a full-body workout.
“Pilates is whole body fitness,” says Salvani. “Unlike some forms of fitness, Pilates does not focus on some parts of the body and neglect others. Strength, muscle development, range of motion, attention to alignment and athletic conditioning are all integrated in this unique system of exercise.”
Still, specific parts of the body can be pinpointed. If there are certain “problem areas” that you’d like to focus on, working in the private one-on-one setting of a typical Pilates session is a great way to address your individual concerns.
“Pilates is very adaptable,” says Salvani. “It can be designed to specifically target your waist, hips, thighs and buttocks for your summer body.”
While individual sessions or duets are very common in Pilates, In Balance Studio also offers regular group classes. These are obviously less expensive, so can be a good entry for people who would like to try Pilates for the first time.
In group sessions, practitioners can still work with the machines, but there is also a mat series that is an important part of the Pilates regimen. These 34 exercises were outlined by Pilates in his book “Return to Life”.
“There is a whole system of Pilates exercises that takes place on the mat,” explains Salvani. “All of the fundamental principles of Pilates are incorporated in mat work, and it can be a great place to start. Mat exercises can help you quickly gain strength and confidence within the Pilates method, helping you to feel ready to experience the fun of the apparatus group classes. All group apparatus classes also include some mat.”
It is in these group apparatus classes that practitioners will work with the machines.
“Pilates is a progressive system of exercises,” says Salvani, “that uses the reformer, the trapeze table or cadillac, the wunda chair, and various small apparatus, each of which provides unique benefits to the body.”
The machines utilize springs and pulleys to work with the practitioner’s resistance and weight.
“Springs are used to create resistance or provide assistance,” says Salvani. “The springs have different tension to vary the amount of resistance they provide. Many levels of resistance are achieved through varying combinations of the springs.”
At In Balance, they’ve developed a new class this season that utilizes the springs specifically in the workout.
“We are offering ‘Spring Fitness’,” says Salvani, “highlighting the resistance of the springs to rev up metabolism, and to target, fight and tone the more difficult areas of your body.”
All of these tools come together to tone the body from the inside out, drawing strength from the core. For people interested in trying Pilates, Salvani recommends integrating it into your routine right away.
“We suggest at least 3 sessions and/or classes per week to start,” she says, “preferably privates at first to better understand the proper exercise technique, and handling of the apparatus.”
In Balance Pilates is located at 34 West Water Street in Sag Harbor, and offers group classes as well as private sessions and duets. Call 725-8282 for more information.