Elina Karimaa, our new Pilates instructor, talks us through the benefits of Pilates and how her experience as a dancer shaped her teaching style...

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a mind-body exercise method created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. It is an innovative and intelligent exercise system that targets the deep stabiliser muscles of the torso (a.k.a the core) and emphasises breathing, proper body alignment and quality over quantity. In a Pilates class you can expect to do a series of controlled movements which will work your strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and posture, changing the way your body looks, feels and functions.

Why should I do Pilates? What's so great about it? Who can benefit?

I believe that practicing Pilates can benefit each and every one of us. Pilates targets the all-important deep supportive muscles in the body helping us to move with ease and stay free of injuries. We all create misalignments and muscular imbalances during our daily activities, whether it's sitting by a computer, doing heavy manual labour or taking care of children at home. Pilates helps to strengthen and rebalance our bodies and can also work as a way to relieve stress.

What kind of Pilates do you teach? Tell us about your teaching style and experience

I did my teacher training with STOTT PILATES which is one of the contemporary approaches to the original method created by Joseph Pilates. The inclusion of modern principles of exercise science and rehabilitation makes it one of the safest and most effective exercise methods available. I teach mat-based Pilates and I am currently also working towards a Reformer Pilates qualification.

I was sixteen when I first started practicing Pilates to support my dance training and I continued with it throughout my career in ballet and contemporary dance. It was a very natural transition to start teaching Pilates after working as a dancer. Pilates exercises have many similarities to ballet and contemporary dance, and because of my background this element is very visible in my classes.

My teaching style can be described as hands on and I aim ensure that everyone is exercising safely with a good technique and getting the most out of each session.

What do you think the most common misconception about Pilates is?

In my experience a very common misconception is that Pilates is very light exercise and mainly used for rehab. Pilates is certainly great for anyone recovering from injury or illness but the fact that it is low impact and often slow tempo does not always mean it's easy. There is a huge range of exercises to choose from and to challenge even the fittest professional athletes. Anyone doubting should have a look at the advanced repertoire... I teach quite a few cyclists who train intensively most days a week. Some of them come to their first Pilates class expecting some stretching and relaxation and in the end of the class they come to tell me how wrong they were!

How do you tailor classes to the individual's needs?

It is certainly one of the great aspects of Pilates that it can be modified to suit different body types and abilities, including pre and post natal women and a range of injuries. For instance, starting positions or the intensity of an exercise can be modified for an individual without changing the essence of the exercise. Small props like cushions, balls and resistance bands can be used to make movements more achievable and comfortable or sometimes to add challenge. These small changes allow everyone to exercise safely and on a level that works for them.

Elina will be teaching on Wednesday evenings. For more info click here.