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The Power of Pilates

[whitespace] Pilates
Leslie Williamson

Kinesthetically Aware: Pilates focuses on breath, clarity of thought and precision of movement.

By Diana Rupp

IT USED TO BE that only world-class dancers were hip to the benefits of Pilates (puh-la-teez), a nonimpact conditioning program that is said to give you a toned physique and great posture without feeling like a workout. Now that the word has spread, everybody from supermodels to senior citizens is strapping in.

The Pilates experience involves the use of machines that would look more at home in an S&M club than in a gym. Under the watchful eyes of a trainer (to keep you in proper alignment and prevent injury), you perform a sequence of moves with resistant springs, straps and pulleys. These exercises aim to strengthen and stabilize your "center" (the abdominal and midback muscles), a process which increases the power and flexibility of your limbs. Additional time is spent on the mat or with a physioball.

Sound like weight training? It's not. Instead of obsessing on one set of muscles at a time in a series of boring repetitions, Pilates focuses on breath, clarity of thought and precision of movement. As in yoga, the goal is to improve your level and range of kinesthetic awareness. "You begin to think in a different way about your body," says Jean Sullivan, director of A Body of Work, an SF studio specializing in Pilates-based fitness. "You're basically retraining muscle patterning, trying to get into the healthiest pattern of movement possible, which is then applied to daily life."

Although many people are flocking to Pilates in the hopes of getting a tight butt with little or no effort, it's not a quick fix. The process involves intense mental conditioning in addition to physical training. The payoff? A better relationship with your mind and body.

Before you're allowed to jump on the equipment, Sullivan or her staff of instructors conduct a thorough evaluation to create a customized routine that addresses your medical history, goals, asymmetries and weaknesses. Not surprisingly, all this one-on-one attention doesn't come cheap. The going rate is $50 dollars an hour with a two-session minimum recommended per week. But the long-term results are worth the money.

A Body of Work is located at 2792 Union St. at Baker, 415/351-2797

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From the November 16-29, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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