Contrology has come a long way. It’s been about 100 years since early practitioners tied springs to hospital beds to allow patients to tone their muscles. Not quite as long ago, iconic American choreographer Martha Graham practiced its principles and taught core exercises to dance students.
For most of its tenure, the full-body exercise program has been known as Pilates, the namesake of its founder Joseph Pilates, the occupational multitasker—boxer, circus acrobat, inventor and hospital nurse.
The mind-body endeavor has expanded into several formats and philosophical approaches.
Like aerobics, jazzercise and spin classes, Pilates can be practiced in group settings or pursued as a private, meditative practice.
Nancy Dengler, a lifelong dancer and longtime Pilates and yoga instructor, knows well the benefits of group and private training. She offers both as the owner of Pilates Loft in Fort Myers, helping students pursue improvement goals in four areas—high-performance training, injury prevention, physical therapy and fitness.
Dengler, who has been teaching Pilates for 16 years and opened her full-time business in 2012, recommends not skipping the private room. “It’s where you can make a profound impact and help them move more safely through the class and feel better at home.”
One example, she details, is the one-on-one ability to identify a common issue, a pelvic rotation or an “upshift.” A specific muscle can be addressed as “short and tight,” or “slightly overstretched.” The individualized attention to pinpoint an individual’s specific issue isn’t emphasized in group sessions. “It helps the person get back into better alignment,” says Dengler, a longtime daily practitioner of Ashtanga yoga. “When they go back into a group training, they’re strength training their best alignment.”
Wendy Stone moved from Massachusetts to Florida five years ago and brought along her 20 years of Pilates experience. She owns The Pilates Firm in Naples and specializes in private session instruction in her studio or virtually.
“Whether you are an athlete, weekend warrior or simply wishing to gain greater mobility, strength or to minimize aches and pains, the Pilates Firm instructors are ready to train and educate you to achieve your fitness goals,” Stone says.
While accommodating duo or trio training, the business emphasized that its “niche is private training, focused on alignment and form.” Stone and her two colleagues don’t offer traditional group training.
Glen Fargo, a massage therapist for more than 30 years, opened the first Pilates studio in Naples in 2001. Like other teachers, Fargo is certified, and he’s also studied neurology. He specializes in rehabilitation from joint replacements, chronic pain, osteoporosis, stability and balance problems, multiple sclerosis and respiratory conditions.
“Pilates can be a very beneficial form of rejuvenation,” says Fargo, who owns The Pilates Center. “It changes the way your body looks, feels and performs in day-to-day tasks by emphasizing the power of breathing techniques and control of body movement.
“Pilates exercises focus on several different muscle groups to offer a full-body workout, all while focusing on the flow and sufficiency of movement through exercises.”
Pilates for Active Aging
Dengler also stresses the importance of meeting the diverse needs of the active aging community. For the 50-plus individual looking to advance their golf or tennis game, or the independent-living senior seeking injury and fall prevention, the needs are similar and range from balance improvement and stability to strength, mobility and focus.
“The delivery is bespoke, and private training is often the best delivery to address the individual needs comprehensively, safely and effectively,” she says. “It absolutely caters to the individual’s body.”
Pilates in SWFL
The Pilates Loft,
The Pilates Center,
The Pilates Firm,