Exploring Yoga and Pilates
Interview with Yoga & Pilates Expert, Angie Newson
When was your first introduction to yoga and Pilates?
I had always been interested in movement and originally did a lot of ballet when I was younger. I then enjoyed fitness classes and first participated in a yoga class about 15 years ago and became hooked. I first did Pilates at a health and fitness convention in Los Angeles around the same time and equally enjoyed it, but for different reasons.
What made you choose Iyengar Yoga? And how do you think that compares to other styles?
I've tried lots of different styles of yoga but found that Iyengar most resonated with my desire for precision and perfect alignment. It's a strict discipline and a great foundation.
Some people confuse yoga with Pilates, what are the differences and similarities between the two practises in your opinion?
To put it very simply, yoga is a spiritual practice thousands of years old and Pilates is an exercise discipline for the early 20th century. Joseph Pilates himself practised yoga, so there are similar moves in Pilates. In Pilates there is a sequence of set mat work exercises, which I suppose you can compare to the fact there is a set sequence of poses in Ashtanga or Sivananda - you know what is coming next. Both yoga and Pilates involve the breath. In Pilates, you inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. In yoga, it's inhale and exhale through the nose. I would say in Pilates you focus more on your core area and your co-ordination is challenged more, but in both disciplines you will become stronger, longer and more flexible.
Why do you think some may feel intimidated by yoga and how can they overcome this?
Some people think of yoga as tying yourself in knots or doing some gymnastic move. Ensure you attend a suitable class for your level. Take a beginners' course or even buy a beginners' DVD - there are some good ones on the market. Read easy to understand yoga books. And if you're still not 'brave' enough to go on your own at the start, ask a reliable friend to come along too!
What's the most common health problem you see in people coming to your classes?
The most common has to be a bad lower back! Shoulder and knee injuries come close second and stiff necks are also common. There are more people now with hand and wrist problems, possibly due to working on computers and texting.
Why are some Pilates classes taught on equipment and others on the mat?
Mat work classes are cheaper to implement. You don't need anything except a mat and your body and you can do it virtually anywhere. Pilates equipment sessions are done in a Pilates studio on pieces called the Reformer, the Cadillac and the Ladder Barrel. All this equipment is expensive to buy.
At Longevity Wellness Resort, you will teach clients of all different levels from beginners to advanced, how do people react to your yoga and Pilates classes and can they reap the benefits quickly?
In a mixed level ability class, modifications and adaptions are given so there is something for everyone. Neither yoga or Pilates is a quick fix - you need to be patient, practise regularly with precision, challenge yourself to improve yourself. However many do get hooked after their first class and want to continue when they go home.
As someone continues to practice yoga and Pilates, what changes might they notice or experience?
An improved sense of well-being and reduced stress levels! You will feel more aligned, more toned and your posture will improve. Co-ordination and stamina will be enhanced and you will become more flexible, stronger and more body and mind aware. Balance will also improve.
What are the benefits of having a one-on-one yoga or Pilates lesson and are these tailored for beginners or all levels?
The benefits of a one-to-one lesson are that it's tailor-made for the individual, regardless of level. Particular body alignment problems are assessed and any injuries can be dealt with far better than in a group situation.
What are your top lifestyle and diet tips for someone who practises yoga and/or Pilates regularly?
I've always advocated moderation, nutritional education and a dose of common sense. Rather than forbidding yourself something (I'm talking chocolate here, not cigarettes!) then a 'little of what you fancy, does you good!' Eat a combination of raw vegetables and fruit and reduce your intake of red meat and eat more oily fish. Reduce your caffeine intake and drink lots of water. Cut out fizzy drinks and drink more green tea as this speeds up your metabolism, contains high levels of antioxidants which reduce the damage to cells caused by free radicals. Become more mindful - and become aware if you are physically hungry or hungry because you are bored or upset. Eat slowly and concentrate so you are more attentive to when you are full and wait at least 10 minutes before you have seconds - you'll often find you don't want anymore. Another good tip is to use smaller plates and even smaller cutlery - it will appear you have more on your plate and you will have to eat smaller bites with a small fork!
Can someone practise Yoga and Pilates if they have a back, knee or other physical problems?
YES! Low-impact exercise, such as yoga and Pilates is beneficial if you suffer from any problems such as bad back or knee. Various yoga poses can reduce knee stress, some athletes have incorporated yoga and Pilates into their fitness regimes. A well-qualified instructor should always ask you if you have any problems so they can recommend poses and exercises that won't strain you. It's imperative you inform your teacher of any issues before taking the class. Because Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles, we develop better posture which lessens the strain on our back and knees from bad posture.
What is really exciting you in your work right now and in your vision of the future of yoga and Pilates?
That yoga and Pilates is becoming more and more popular with the 'ordinary person', irrelevant of age or gender. The benefits of both disciplines really do cross your life completely - whether you work out in the gym, go running in the street, play football or look after the kids or walk the dog. My students inspire me - when you see the improvements they make and the dedication they have, it makes me want to learn more and continue 'spreading the word'. And even though some yoga purists are not happy that yoga has become what they considered watered down - I feel that if it means one person every so often finds their path, that's got to be worth it. So what if a celebrity makes a yoga or Pilates video - if someone buys it and in turn it gets their passion fired to improve their health and fitness levels, that's got to be a good thing.