[Core Principal: Maryellen Gibson]
Just a year after Maryellen Gibson tore her left ACL and meniscus and broke a tibia in a skiing accident, she’s totally rehabilitated. The kicker? She never had surgery. A student of the Pilates method for 21 years and a teacher for 15, the Boston-born mother of two attributes her recovery to the practice. “Pilates helps you restore the balance of your strength, your flexibility, and your control of the body,” says Gibson, who, prior to becoming a Pilates teacher, was a pediatric nurse at MUSC and an aerobics instructor. “What drew me to the practice was just how great it makes you feel. The control, precision, and repetition of the exercises means there’s plenty of effort, but it’s effort with ease.”
If you’ve ever peeked inside a Pilates studio, you’ve likely seen mats and machines aplenty. Here, Gibson, an instructor at Mindful Body Pilates and gyrotonics studio in West Ashley, demystifies the equipment and offers tips for getting started
Understand the exercise. Joseph Pilates of Germany invented the Pilates method—originally dubbed “Contrology”—during World War I as a way to help rehab soldiers in an internment camp. Traditional Pilates is taught using a suite of equipment conceptualized by Pilates himself (including the Reformer, Wunda Chair, Cadillac, and on), which help support the body, target core muscles, and improve alignment and posture.
Schedule a private session. Pilates experts, Gibson included, strongly recommend investing in a few one-on-one sessions before joining a group Reformer or mat class. “It lets you discover your personal alignment and postural needs and familiarize yourself with the equipment,” says Gibson. To save money, enlist a pal who’s also new to the practice for a two-on-one session.
Choose an instructor. Working with a teacher who’s trained with the full suite of equipment helps you get the most return on your investment, says Gibson. In addition to researching their credentials, she recommends reading the profile of potential instructors online and choosing one with whom you connect.
Make it routine. Joseph Pilates recommended practicing the method four times per week; in addition, he’d assign homework. Gibson suggests practicing two to three times a week (“We have more time restraints in modern days!” she admits), and supplementing classes with at-home exercises. “It’s like learning a new language—you want it to become part of your regimen,” she says. “That way when you’re traveling, you can still pull out your mat and do your basic exercises.”
Choose a Class
Some standout beginner classes the local Pilates scene has to offer
Breathe Pilates Studio & Spa: Sign up for new client specials, like a three-pack of 55-minute one-on-one sessions. $150; 624 Long Point Rd., Mount Pleasant; www.breathepilates.us
International Pilates Center: Take a few private classes with Jamie Trout, a former ballerina who was classically trained by Romana Kryznaowska, a direct protégé of founder Joseph Pilates. $270 intro rate for three lessons; $110 single class. 334 East Bay St.; www.internationalpilatescenter.com
Mindful Body: Get started with Intro to Pilates, a comprehensive beginner package that includes three one-on-one sessions and one group equipment class. $195; 124 Windermere Blvd., West Ashley; www.themindfulbody.net
PraXis Pilates: Team up with a friend or family member (or get matched with another beginner) for a “duet” (two-on-one) introductory session. $45; 1405 Ben Sawyer Blvd., Ste. 102, Mount Pleasant; www.praxispilates.com
The Loft Pilates Center: Get one-on-one instruction during private lessons. $65; $600 for 10 classes. 1799 Meeting St., Ste. B; www.pilatesloft.com
Raise the Barre
Think you need to be a ballerina to take a barre class? Think again. Consisting of targeted, isometric movements performed with props (resistance bands, balls, free weights) and at a ballet barre, these classes offer an efficient, effective workout—no dance skills required
■ Barre Evolution: Offers high-style, spacious studios in Mount Pleasant and South Windermere Center and boasts a friendly, boutique atmosphere. $23 single class; 320 W. Coleman Blvd., Mount Pleasant; & 1133 Oakland Market Rd., North Mount Pleasant; & 70 Folly Rd., West Ashley; www.barreevolution.com
■ Barre South: The newest neighbor on the local barre block, this industrial-chic studio with exposed brick and natural light opened on the ground floor of Mount Pleasant’s The Boulevard last year and serves up inviting, high-energy classes. $20 single class; 735 Coleman Blvd., Mount Pleasant; www.barresouth.com
■ Breathe Pilates Studio & Spa: A fast-paced, 55-minute workout blending elements of ballet, Pilates, and other dance exercises at the barre. $20 single class; 624 Long Point Rd., Mount Pleasant; www.breathepilates.us
■ Pure Barre: Features three locations and a motivating, theatrical vibe—think beat-heavy music and low lighting. $25 single class; 164 Market St., Ste. C, Charleston; 919 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Mount Pleasant; & 1300 Savannah Hwy., Ste. 5, West Ashley; www.purebarre.com
■ Raising the Barre: Supported in part by the City of Charleston Recreation Department, the affordable classes are held in park facilities throughout town, from Hazel Parker Playground to Brittlebank Park. $8 single class; locations vary; www.raisingthebarrecharleston.com
■ Studio Barre: Offers James Islanders upbeat, convenient classes in a clean, creative, and inclusive setting. $22 single class; 1956 Maybank Hwy., James Island; www.studiobarre.com