Take me to the Spine Corrector!
The Gazette

Sunday, September 26, 2004
Thanks to all you concerned readers and practitioners of physical fitness. I am now abundantly aware that Pilates is not a Greek appetizer or a Greek philosopher. Nor is it a malady relating to an orifice that dare not speak its name in a family newspaper while folks are trying to chew on their Cheerios.

I suggested recently that in the absence of the Habs this winter and, in short, in the absence of life for some, that it was perhaps to time to get another life and a hobby that entails more hoisting than beer or TV clickers. A hobby favoured by Spandex-sporting women, who frolic with large rubber balls and kinky equipment designed to keep one's bod toned. A hobby like Pilates.

But I must 'fess up. I was more drawn to the name than the diversion. That was before Andrew Medland contacted me. Medland, a diehard hockey fan, happens to own a newly opened Pilates studio called Praxis. He sought to give me the lowdown on Pilates and to assure me that Spandex and Pilates were synonymous with one another.

Minutes later, I arrived at Praxis for my education - sans Spandex. In not-so-alluring sweats, actually. At first glance, the place looked more like an S&M chamber, what with its many chain and rope-adorned gizmos. Even at second glance.

Scott Frederick, a certified Pilates trainer with less body fat than an amoeba, chuckled at the profundity of my observation. "I always joke we could make more money after hours catering to a different clientele," cracked the shaved-headed trainer.

This kinky equipment comes with names to match: the Reformer, the Spine Corrector, the Stability Chair and the Cadillac, for a ride you won't soon forget.

No surprise that Pilates is named after one Joseph Pilates, a deceased German expatriate who made his mark in England during the First World War helping prisoners of war regain strength and mobility with exercises on mats and specialized equipment. When Pilates later moved to New York, his workout drills were immediately embraced by the dance community, and such hoofers as Martha Graham and George Balanchine became instant converts.

As I've always said: if it's good enough for Balanchine, it's good enough for me. So take me to the Spine Corrector! Now!

Not so fast, said trainer Frederick. First, a health evaluation and postural analysis were in order. "We're looking for obvious asymmetries," he explained.
And being a true-blue Quebecer, Frederick found a score of asymmetries. Pelvic shifts. Middle-back flattenings. Shoulder imbalances. Sudden head rotations. But the latter, Frederick soon deduced, might have been precipitated by the sudden entry of Spandex into the studio.

Time to hit the mats to bring much-needed symmetry. Before letting me demonstrate my prowess, Frederick informed me that what I was about to perform was Stott Pilates, a process "that incorporates modern exercise science and rehabilitation principles, eliminates contraindicated movements and emphasizes neutral alignment, core stability and peripheral motion."

Say what? After whipping out the Pilates decoder ring, it was deemed that one had to learn to breathe properly, while contorting and manipulating the bod, to get that pesky pelvis as aligned as my car tires. Or something.

And it soon became clear Pilates could be much tougher on this brain than this body.

While Frederick put me through of series of choreographed arm and leg movements that appeared more appropriate for flappers auditioning for the Ziegfeld Follies, he tried to keep me amused with uplifting banter: "The muscles of the deep pelvic floor keep your organs from flying out on to the pavement." Thanks for sharing.

"Pelvics plus transversus abdominus," he elaborated. "Now that's key." Yeah, I knew that.

On to the Cadillac, to get stabilized with the help of a mess of coils and springs and ropes. What, no cuffs? I spoke too soon. Evaluation complete, Frederick was frank: "There's definitely much work to do to get to a point where you're moving safely and fluidly and engaging the proper muscles." Pause. "Let's just say no one is a lost cause."

On the subject of fluids, owner Medland, sensing my frustration, was most quick to point out that drinking is not condemned under the Pilates plan. Medland also pointed out that most Pilates practitioners are the more intelligent of the human species: women. "Men have an initial aversion to Pilates, but once they try it, they really learn to love it. Honestly."

But the Neanderthal within suspects that might have more to do with Spandex than pelvics.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2004
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