When I started this venture I promised all of the teachers I’d give them warning before I came to their classes but as time goes on I find myself deciding at the last minute about which class I’ll attend. Since I needed to do two today, I was looking for a combo that would be user friendly. I noticed the 10:00 a.m. Pilates nestled up to the 11 a.m. Yoga/Stretch and said “that’s it.” Deciding at the last moment, I just 'dropped in' on Barbara and she ribs me about not giving notice. I’ve now been to two of her classes and haven’t told her beforehand either time. Oops.
Partly that lack of notice is a compliment. I feel certain that Barbara, who is not lacking in poise, can handle my unannounced presence without missing a beat and that turns out to be the case. She is the matriarch of Pilates at the LRAC and has a reputation as a fantastic instructor. Somehow, I'm chagrined to admit, I’ve never taken one of her Pilates classes.
I’ll also admit that I am a little nervous about taking her class today, wondering if I’ll be able to do it. She has a lot of long time students and I know they are way more advanced than I am. In fact, there are three women who I’m pretty sure have been taking her class from the beginning (ca. 2000) and it shows. I’m referring to Sandra Ashcraft, Genie Sigler and Cathy Turner. These women are exhibits 1,2 and 3 for why one would want to regularly practice Pilates - they each have the lithe and graceful body of a ballerina.
There are lots of others in class today with similar levels of grace and skill – I cleverly choose the back corner of the room where no one can check out my form. Barbara, though, is such a skillful teacher that I needn’t have worried about my level. She is accustomed to advanced students but she easily teaches all levels at the same time – showing modifications for each pose. Even though I once took Pilates twice a week for two years, it’s been a while and I can’t remember all of the poses by name. No problem. Barbara describes each pose precisely but also recommends watching on some of the harder ones before trying them. She also comes around and gives adjustments to me and a few others who are relative newbies. These hands on adjustments are priceless for helping one understand correct positioning.
I follow along with her instruction doing the best I can and I’m surprised at what an enjoyable experience it is. Well, the so-called “stomach series” isn’t exactly fun since it's composed of 5 different ab busting exercises with no break between them but it's over before you know it and on we go to the next thing. There are plenty of techniques that are similar to yoga postures and that helps with my comfort level.
One thing that Pilates does that yoga doesn’t do – at least on a regular basis – is the side leg series. It’s a whole set of exercises that isolate the glute and hip flexor in a way that make me want to scream. Today, we do this series in a unique way. Barbara has us do them standing on one leg while holding on to a weighted bar (like one would use a cane) for balance. It’s very effective because both legs are getting worked simultaneously. It’s my first time to try it that way but I like it better than the version where you lie on the floor on your side with the top leg doing all the work.
The whole class is a great experience for me and I’m very impressed with Barbara’s skill as an instructor and understand why she has such a dedicated following. Today, in class there are about twenty of us…all women except for me and my old pal Bill Felix. Bill has been coming faithfully to Pilates since he and I were beginners back around 2002 or so. He’s kept with it because it’s been so helpful in warding off low back pain. His core is super strong too….though you'd never get him to admit it.
The $25 gift certificate goes to Geralyn Applegate.
Next up is Beverly’s luscious Yoga/Stretch class.
PS Anyone wanting more info on the origin and history of Pilates can check out the blog on class #7.