Pilates – A misunderstood art of strength conditioning

Live & Breathe Pilates studio in Portobello, D8, was set up 12 years ago before the Pilates craze started and continues to thrive to this day with booked and busy weekly schedules.

With the Pilates industry becoming increasingly popular in recent years, there’s many misconceptions about it. Steph Grey, owner of Live & Breathe Pilates and long-time Pilates instructor herself, corrected some of them for The Liberty.

The main pieces of apparatus used are the reformer, the Cadillac, and mats. Due to Pilates blowing up in recent years, it’s a common misconception that mat work will help you build up strength to use the above apparatus. It’s quite the opposite.

“The whole point of the apparatus is to help you with mat work,” says Grey. The reformers have multiple levels of resistance using springs. “We would have many people who would come in, who might’ve been gym users, who would have an expectation that it’s all about how heavy the spring is, but a lot of the times the lighter the spring the more challenging the exercise,” she says. 

 Another misconception is that the heavier the resistance on your reformer is, the more you’re training your muscles. However, the less resistance the spring has, the less support the reformer gives you – this allows people to build up their balance over time. “The reformer is only a part of the whole Pilates repertoire,” Grey says. The goal is to be able to support all your body weight on a mat without the help of other apparatus. 

Pictured: Some reformers alongside the mats used at Live & Breathe Pilates. Photo: Alison Gussago

The Cadillac, also known as the trapeze table, is another piece of apparatus particularly used for rehabilitation or athletic conditioning purposes. 

Pictured: The Cadillac (Trapeze table). Photo: Alison Gussago

Pilates is for all people of all ages – Live & Breathe Pilates even offer sessions for pregnant and post-natal women. “We want it to be an exercise programme that works for all stages of life,” Grey says. To begin doing Pilates at Live & Breathe, you will be asked to complete an initial assessment to familiarise yourself with the equipment, even if you’ve done Pilates before elsewhere. Classes at Live & Breathe Pilates are run in accordance with your level of familiarity with Pilates.

Classes are small as a consequence. “We teach a lot based on technique and figuring out what each client needs,” Grey says.

The studio has 12 teachers, with diverse backgrounds. “We’re a very international family – we have Irish, American, Italian, Spanish, German, Argentinian, Mongolian,” Grey says. The customers skew strongly female, probably based on how Pilates portrayed in the media. However, the inventor of Pilates was a man, Joseph Pilates, and as Grey notes, it was “designed initially for boxers and training of the military during the second World War”.

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