At the top of the Sunflower house, there is a hidden gem… the Pilates Studio (which some of you may have noticed glancing up at the top of the stairs where there is a small window in the floor of the studio). Inside the studio, you will find some incredible, though perhaps initially intimidating apparatus, with some rather strange names; The Reformer, The Trapeze Table/Cadillac, The Wunda Chair and The Ladder Barrel.

“ At first sight, the Pilates studio equipment can be a bit forbidding. As can the names-Reformer?! But the equipment means you can have a really varied programme, with the challenge and support in every session. I find this helps to prevent routine undermining the interest and enjoyment…..and effectiveness” – Chris Barnham

These amazing pieces of equipment were originally invented by German-born, Mr. Joseph Hubertus Pilates (1883-1967), who established the exercise practice that bears his name. Whilst some would say he was a stubborn and eccentric man, I would say he was something of a genius both in the ingenious design of his equipment and for his creation of the method itself which has an impressive record of helping practitioners with physical and mental well-being.
Each piece of the Pilates equipment has specific features that are unique. Apart from the Ladder Barrel, they all use springs and/or pulley systems to increase and enhance the range of options for Pilates exercises. The beauty of the equipment is that it has the capacity both to challenge the fit and support the injured or elderly.
My description of the equipment can never do it justice. The best way to discover its power is to experience it for yourself or observe others using it……

  • The Reformer is perhaps the most well known and popular of all the apparatus. It is comprised of a simple frame with a low and moving carriage with springs and straps. Exercises vary from simple isolated movements of the arms and legs to complex, whole-body exercises. Its versatility is incredible.
  • The Trapeze Table is my favorite piece of equipment. As its name suggests, it can enable acrobatic-like movements for those of you who love a bit of circus! Because of its structure, it permits hanging exercises which can offer some great possibilities for upper body strengthening. Unlike the Reformer, the Trapeze Table does not move and thus provides a stable base of support which is an advantage for people who lack balance and stability. Also, it is high off the ground which makes it easier for those with limited mobility to get on and off. The inspiration for this piece of equipment was a hospital bed. When World War One broke out, Joseph Pilates was interned in a camp on the Isle of Man with other German nationals and he began to devise apparatus to aid in the rehabilitation of the disabled and sick.
  • The Wunda Chair  is probably one of the most challenging pieces of equipment. It was originally designed to be converted from exercise machine to chair for the living room! As a teacher, it is helpful because it readily highlights imbalances and weaknesses in the body. It is well suited for improving strength and enhancing athletic performance.
  • The Ladder Barrel utilises gravity rather than springs for resistance. It provides opportunities for active and passive back extension (crucial for developing back strength and good posture) in addition to offering many great stretches.

For those of you who are new to the method, Pilates is a holistic and mindful movement practice that certainly integrates body and mind, and some also say spirit. “Papa Jo” himself, initially named it Contrology. There are a number of key principles that form the foundation of the system: breath, concentration, centre, control, precision and flow. The overall aim is to create balance in our system, to move with ease and efficiency and to improve posture, strength, flexibility and balance. This may involve correcting faulty movement patterns and holding patterns/habits which may have developed from physical or emotional injury or pain.

“I’m in my 60s. Studio pilates has enabled me to continue with long distance walking despite having had a problem with my knee. It repeatedly restores my confidence in my body’s capacity to recover it’s flexibility and strength”- Teresa Bailey

One of the great things about Pilates is that it really is a movement practice that is suitable for everyone and any body. It can not only enhance athletic performance but also assist in rehabilitation from injury, illness and surgery and positively affect clients with neurological problems. Eve Gentry, a famous dancer (and later a first-generation Pilates teacher) is testament to the power of the Pilates method to recover from illness and surgery. In 1955 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy which in those days involved the removal of not only the breast but also all of the pectoral muscles which are key to most movements of the arm. It seemed that her dancing career was well and truly over. But with the dedicated help from Joseph Pilates a full year of painful rehabilitative work, daily exercise and musculoskeletal reeducation she was able to lift her arms, move and dance in ways unimaginable after such a surgery.

“I have been coming to Pilates at the Sunflower for over 3 years. To begin with it was hard to coordinate my breathing and the movements – you have to be patient because it takes time. I have a long-term medical condition and had major surgery in recent years. I’m not brilliant at Pilates. I often feel groggy when I arrive but have a spring in my step and feel so much better when I leave” – Laura Cunningham

As a comprehensively trained (mat and apparatus) Pilates teacher, I truly love the equipment and really appreciate its versatility. My personal preference is teaching on the equipment because the classes are individually tailored for each client regardless of who else may be having a class alongside them. Each client is offered a programme that is tailored to meet their own needs and ability. The classes at the Sunflower are for a maximum of three people and more often two. This provides a high level of tuition and supervision which is reflected in the higher price. For those people who are injured, recovering from illness or surgery or have specific conditions such as neurological problems, studio Pilates is more appropriate than mat Pilates. I would also suggest that total beginners might find the level of input and support that studio provision offers a helpful introduction to learning the method.
Christine Rutter

“I came to the Sunflower Centre as a complete beginner to Pilates a year ago when I was diagnosed with arthritis. I really enjoy using the range of equipment the studio has to offer and like the flexibility and scope of exercises it enables me to do which I don’t think I would have got from mat work alone”- Emma O’Shea.

  • Pilates

    Pilates Equipment Studio

    The Pilates Studio at The Sunflower Centre has fully qualified instructors available teaching 1-1 or small group classes weekly.

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