In the beginning, it was called “Contrology.”
Joseph Pilates, a German physical fitness trainer, developed a series of exercises for the body and mind as an effective way to alleviate the aches and pains of dancers.
Controlled breathing, fluid movements using lower back and abdominal muscles, tone and shape without the pain associated with high-impact exercises. Over time, “Pilates,” as it’s come to be known, has become a popular alternative to the grind of a gym workout.
Angela Brown opened her Pilates of Jackson studio 13 years ago at the Canton Mart Square shopping center, located in northeast Jackson.
Walking into Pilates of Jackson, you’re immediately breathing in and exhaling slowly. The lighting is dim, a calming ambiance, filled with giggles, light banter and the aroma of scented candles. A decorative, painted stone above the door reads, “Namaste y’all.”
Brown is welcoming, encouraging and demanding without being a drill sergeant. Her charges follow her lead in swirling legs in circles, holding balls between knees while lifting and holding rumps high in the air, or gently shadow-boxing using a series of spring-controlled pulleys.
“Lift up and hold it,” Brown tells a class of women, slowly counting backwards to the sounds of their collective relief. “C’mon, ladies. One more set, and then we’ll take a break.” Sighs fill the air, and the leg lifts begin again.
In her mid-50s, Brown is a testament to the benefits of practicing what she teaches.
“I was always a gym rat. After having three kids, I wasn’t happy with how my body changed,” said Brown, while stretching using a series of straps and pulleys. “I worked out, killing myself, but never really lost weight. I fell in love with Pilates and joined a studio in Ridgeland.”
As the women’s session ends, a group of Jackson State football players are the next group to file in. Brown greets them all by name as they prepare for their session.
“See these guys breaking a sweat?” Brown asks, her hand sweeping in a semi-circle to include all the grunting and grinning young men. “They never would’ve believed this kind of exercise could help them. They’re believers now,” she says with a satisfied smile.
A few groans in agreement emanate from the footballers.
Brown works the room, adjusting the placement of a foot, the bend of a knee or the height of lifted legs.
“Being a mom of three, Pilates helped me get back to my pre-baby shape with a stronger core, better balance and flexibility,” she said, while kicking off her sandals to join the young men. “Pilates began to change my mind, body and spirit. It’s a series of core exercises where the leaner muscle you build, the more weight you lose. It focuses on a lengthened and stronger core. Being low-impact, your joints and muscle don’t hurt, and it’s still a great workout.”
“Isn’t that right, fellas? Okay. Everybody take five,” Brown says, releasing the group from a series of core building leg lifts.
Their satisfaction is palpable.