Girton village website

Active Girton: Pilates

What Is Pilates? Pilates (pronounced 'pill - ah - tees') is an exercise system developed by Joseph Pilates, born in Germany in 1883, who believed strongly in the interrelatedness of mental and physical health. He came to the UK in 1912, where he continued to develop his ideas, applying his methods to the rehabilitation of injured servicemen during the First World War. He emigrated to New York in 1923, where his studio was frequented by professional dancers and choreographers such as Martha Graham and George Balanchine, and he eventually became known to every dancer in New York. His students gradually spread the 'message' throughout the USA, and a British student, Alan Herdman, brought Pilates to the UK in the early 1970s. Since then Pilates has become increasingly popular as a safe and effective form of exercise suitable for all ages, practised by an estimated 12 million people worldwide.

The approach is holistic, emphasising strength, flexibility and mobility, with an emphasis on the 'core' of the body, on correct breathing and body alignment, and on improving psychological as well as physical well-being through concentration on movement. In Girton we don't have far to travel to practise Pilates, as two qualified instructors hold regular classes here.

Amanda Platt holds classes during school term times in Gretton School (Mondays and Tuesdays, 6.30 and 7.35 p.m.) and in the Pavilion (Fridays, 9.30 and 10.35 a.m.). Class members are of all ages and experience, the youngest being of school age and the oldest in her 80s. The classes are described as 'mat' classes (as opposed to 'studio'), in that they do not involve complicated equipment, and a maximum of 12 people per class ensures a personal approach and individual attention. There are two levels of classes, 'Beginners' for those new to the discipline, and 'Intermediate' for those with experience. Among those who can benefit from the regime are post-natal clients, strengthening and toning their bodies back to pre-pregnancy shape, osteoporosis sufferers, those who have suffered an injury or have undergone an operation such as hip replacement, and more generally anyone who suffers from back pain or has indefinable aches and pains. Here the gentle but disciplined approach to 'breathing, concentration, alignment, flow' can result in genuine benefits being felt after as few as ten sessions. Amanda puts it like this: 'It is about how you move, not where you move to' - so no physical contortions are required!

Amanda came to Pilates from a high-powered management career during which time she attended Pilates classes as a means of stress reduction. So beneficial did she find it that she trained as a Pilates Foundation instructor, and today she says she 'lives and breathes Pilates'. Long associated with Girton - her first Girton classes were held at the WI and she has been holding classes at the Pavilion since 2006 - her enthusiasm is clearly shared by her clientele, many of whom have been with her for more than seven years. For connoisseurs of the discipline, her approach is Classical Pilates and the Evolved repertoire.

Joules Kyle has been teaching Pilates for 20 years. Her Girton Pilates classes take place on Wednesdays from 9.45 to 11.00 a.m. at the Pavilion. Joules's classes are aimed mainly at older participants and she has a specialist qualification in Pilates training for over 50s. Her training has been in Modern Pilates, which was developed by physiotherapists and fitness experts using a modern understanding of the way the body works. A classically trained dancer, Joules also trained as a nurse, and came to Pilates both with sad personal experience of physical injury and with a thorough knowledge of human physiology. The core approach is the same as for Classical Pilates, with a focus on posture and alignment, the 'core', and creating body awareness by working from within. Joules emphasises 'intelligent exercise', teaching people to use the right muscles for the right job. Some people come to Pilates on the recommendation of a physiotherapist or chiropractor, and Joules finds that Pilates can help people to become pain-free without painkillers. Like Amanda, Joules limits her classes to a maximum of 12 to give her the time for one-on-one attention to individual needs.

Joules emphasises that there is a huge difference between 'working out' at the gym and doing Pilates exercises. Both may have the goal of improving fitness and well-being, but over-exercising certain muscles at the expense of others can be detrimental, or as she says, 'Exercise with poor technique and lack of body awareness can be detrimental to the body.' Pilates is totally non-competitive and is genuinely a form of exercise for any age. Joules describes it as 'like training the trunk of a tree so that even if the branches are whipped around by the wind, the tree will still stand'.

Angela Blackburn

For more information: Pilates Foundation UK:
Amanda Platt Pilates:, tel. 07733 307475
Joules Kyle: tel. 07707 351828