Don't let the lithe bodies, deep breathing and soft music lull you into thinking exercise based on the
teachings of late fitness guru Joseph Pilates (Puh-lah-teez) is just for dancers. It's not.
The fact is people from all walks of life, all around the world, are committing themselves to what some
are calling a "deeper," more "intelligent" approach to fitness.
"I don't come from a dance background, I'm an aging white guy," says John Ford, who suffered
muscle tension and joint pain before embarking on a program at the STOTT PILATES Studio in Toronto.
"My shoulders used to be hunched up around my ears. Now they're where they should be," says
the 48-year-old union representative, adding, "I don't have the knee problems I had before, my
posture is better and I'm looking forward to running and roller blading again."
Although the method of conditioning has been around since the 1920s, until fairly recently it was a
well-kept secret by dancers who used it to help rehabilitate from injury and enhance performance. As
people like John discover its benefits, however, it is becoming more widely known and appreciated.
"People are developing a more measured, holistic approach to fitness," says Moira Merrithew,
a former professional dancer and program director of the STOTT PILATES Studio. "They still want to
look fit and toned, but they also want to enjoy the process and to feel more vital and aware of their
In the mid '80s, after hanging up her pointe shoes to nurse an injured foot, Moira discovered the
neuro-muscular technique through the Dancer in Transition Resource Centre which offered her a grant to
study at Joseph Pilates' studio in New York City. "Learning the intricacies of the method not only
helped me to rehabilitate and achieve an optimal level of fitness personally, it inspired me to share the
technique with others," says the soft-spoken 38-year-old.
Just as Yoga has evolved over the years to reflect the knowledge and styles of certain experts or gurus
Iyengar and Kudalini being examples so has exercise based on Joseph Pilates' method.
"By taking the teachings of Joseph Pilates and updating them to include what we now know about the
body, we can offer a highly effective and safe exercise regime," says Moira.
Moira's contemporary approach, known as STOTT PILATES, preserves the essence of Joseph Pilates'
original "mind-body" teachings but enhances them with modern biomechanical knowledge and input
from such health professionals as physical therapists and chiropractors. Unlike the original method, it
incorporates the modern concepts of core stability and neutral postural alignment restoring the
natural curves of the spine as integral to developing total fitness.
As certified instructor Syl Klotz will attest, STOTT PILATES is a mindful yet dynamic workout
that can be customized easily to suit the needs and objectives of each participant. Its repertoire of more
than 500 challenging moves are based on the principal that by systematically and methodically developing a
strong and flexible torso, the whole body can be balanced, aligned and conditioned for optimal performance.
"It's the perfect complement to cardiovascular exercise such as power walking, aerobics or
cycling," adds Syl.
Done regularly either on a mat or using specially-designed resistance equipment the
posture-improving regime promises muscular strength, flexibility and endurance, without the bulk. And unlike
traditional weight training or aerobics programs, an emphasis on movement quality versus quantity makes
STOTT PILATES more "work-in" than work-out, leaving participants feeling refreshed, not
exhausted. "After only my first session, I felt a combination of strength and peace," says
Lydia Stone, who first heard about the method of exercise through a dancer friend. "It makes you feel
strong, stretched and invigorated," says the 39-year-old magazine editor and mother of two.
"I can't wait to go back."
Although there are pilates-style studios and classes springing up across the country, Moira cautions
people to research before they begin a program. "Because the method of exercise is very much
knowledge-based, requiring a deep understanding of body mechanics and technique, I recommend that people
begin one-on-one or in small group sessions with a certified instructor."
Moira and partner-husband Lindsay Merrithew are so committed to preserving and promoting the integrity
of the exercise system that they've developed a resource centre of sorts. In addition to their two studios,
where you can participate in private and group sessions, they also offer comprehensive training and
certification. And if you're having difficulty finding a certified instructor, they encourage you to
contact them for assistance.
In the meantime, to help you get started in the comfort of your own home, STOTT PILATES has
produced several instructional videos, ranging in level of difficulty and described as "a godsend
for all those keen to try exercise based on the teachings of Joseph Pilates but unable to find or afford
an instructor in their area." And, if you're really serious, STOTT PILATES can provide you
with the related resistance equipment, which they manufacture and sell to fitness enthusiasts and
professionals all over the world.
"When I think about how I used to do sit-ups. I used to throw myself down on a mat, do 75
sit-ups and I'd be working my hip flexors instead of my abdominals, thank you very much," recalls
John. "This is much different. You actually spend time learning how to exercise effectively."
And if you're still not convinced, take it from renowned ballet dancer Karen Kain, one of Stott's first
clients: "Within the first week I could see a difference, not only in my strength and flexibility,
but in how much better my back felt."
For more information contact STOTT PILATES at 1-800-910-0001,