Health: Live longer and enjoy a healthier lifestyle

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“Contrology develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit,” said Joseph Pilates, founding father of Pilates, the physical fitness programme he developed in the early part of the last century and which is now practiced by millions across the world.

There are a number of different methods of delivering Pilates but all follow the same basic principals of putting emphasis on alignment, breathing,developing strong core muscles and improving coordination and balance.

Launched in 2010 by friends Claire Sparrow and Kath Nisbet, Leeds Pilates Place delivers more than 100 classes a week both from its base in Kirkstall and also through local classes out in the community.

The pair met in 2008 when both were teaching classes in and around Leeds and decided to set up a small studio in Meanwood. Their dream however was to open up a fully equipped studio because, as Claire says:“We knew deep down that the mat work we were offering was not enough for people to get the full benefits of Pilates and we knew we needed a studio for people to truly move better, feel better, get fitter and get leaner.

“We found that increasingly, more and more people were coming to us after being referred by their osteopath or physiotherapist and that needs a different approach to working with a super-fit 20-year-old walking in off the street. “Equipment takes the load off your joints while still building up strength.

“Equipment-based Pilates is also very good for injury-prevention among sportsmen. “We have a number of golfers as clients and they have been able to improve their swing as they can work in ranges of movement and feel the rotation they need to get a good golf swing.

“We often hear new clients say they’ve been doing a mat class at their gym but they’re not sure if they’re doing it right. By using the equipment you can establish good patterns of movement before you go onto the mat.”

Claire and Kath are practitioners of Polestar Pilates and host specialist teacher training courses - the first centre outside London to do so.

Although both were fully qualified Pilates teachers, when they discovered Polestar they went right back to basics again. “We like Polestar because it’s accessible for all,” says Claire. “It’s not a prescribed method and can be adapted to the individual and their specific needs.

“Pilates can be life-changing. If everyone did Pilates then there would be fewer injuries, fewer people would have lower back pain and there wouldn’t be as many people attending their doctor’s surgery.

“There are a generation of people who are going to live longer and if we live longer then we have to have bodies that support that.”

The founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates practiced what he called contrology until his death, aged 83.

German-born Pilates was interned in Lancaster Castle and then on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien during the First World War.

In 1925 he migrated to the USA and he and his wife Clara established a devoted following in the local dance and performing-arts community of New York with their new exercise method.