Next up in the series, one of my all-time inspirations and someone who has personally and professionally influenced the way I live my life and teach my classes, Lynne Robinson, founder of
I trained with Body Control in 2005. Back then it was a much smaller organisation based in Neals Yard in Covent Garden, where we could smell the wafting aromas of tempting food from surrounding cafes while we were on our training modules.
They’re now based in studios in Bloomsbury and train hundreds of teachers every year, but even now Lynne makes sure that she checks in with the new trainees at least once in their training process, so the effect is that you genuinely feel like you’re entering into a close-knit person-driven community when you join the Body Control fold.
I have read all of Lynne’s books avidly – it was a book token birthday gift that first led me to buy her book The Perfect Body the Pilates Way, in 2002, which then allowed me to pluck up the courage to go to my first Pilates class…and, well, obviously I quite liked it and so began my Pilates journey.
She is someone who in person radiates charisma and enthusiasm for life, and has done an incredible job of bringing Pilates to the masses and changing people’s bodies, wellbeing and lives for the better.
She is a mentor, teacher, author, speaker, business manager, mother and grandmother. I wanted to find out how she juggles all of this with such grace and aplomb.
Tell me about Pilates for Life, your latest book. What was the motivation behind writing it?
The reason Carmela and I wanted to write Pilates for Life is that we felt there was a need for a Pilates book that specifically targeted the 40s-plus. Whilst the Pilates Bible is a fabulous book for all ages, many of the original Advanced classical exercises are too difficult for the older client unless they’ve been doing Pilates for years. There are so many special considerations with older clients which have to be taken into account.
For example: do they have bone density problems, a fear of falling, arthritis, respiratory problems, etc. We’ve modified existing exercises and created new ones that help these conditions and many more.
We also wanted to focus on exercises that help maintain independence so we included exercises for balance and for strengthening muscles needed for carrying out daily activities. Exercises such Lunges which are normally associated more with the gym than a Pilates class. There’s even eye exercises in the programme. This programme will help keep you fit into your 90s!
I particularly love the section in the book that focuses on mental health, encouraging people to become more aware of their health in a truly holistic way. What in your view is the best thing about Pilates in that respect and what small steps would you advise someone who was struggling with anxiety to build into their daily habits?
Anyone who has done regular Pilates will recognise that moment (about 10 minutes into a class) when the world seems a better place and you just feel calmer. As you focus on controlling your alignment, your breath and your movements there isn’t ‘mind space’ for anything else like worrying about to do lists or what happened during the day. Pilates is both mind and body training. It puts you back in control of both.
I think the best way to start using Pilates to help your mental health is to find a class you enjoy with a well qualified teacher. Make going to the class a priority, don’t let anything prevent you going .
Then bring what you’ve learnt in the class home. Deep breathing is a great way to calm yourself if you feel anxious … Try 5 minutes in The Relaxation Position, focus on deep breathing , followed this with few Spine Curls and Hip rolls to unravel your spine … Neck Rolls and Shoulder Drops are fabulous exercises to release upper body tension.
But my all time favourite is Chalk Circles, it’s near impossible to feel down whilst doing them … the simple joy of moving well.
Those are my go tos for calm and balance as well, I try to do at least two of those every day and I really really notice when I miss it. What are your personal mental health tools in your own toolkit?
For myself my mental toolkit involves regular Pilates sessions. It’s not easy when it’s your own studio, so I try to find a time when the studio is relatively quiet otherwise I’m watching all the time to make sure things are running smoothly.
I also love gardening, and have a passion for roses and lavender. Given the opportunity I’d happily spend hours tending them.
But perhaps the best antidote to a stressful life is a couple of hours with your grandchildren. There’s nothing quite like dressing up as a tiger, pirate or princess and singing, skipping through the woods or even trampolining (thank heavens for Pilates!) .
How do you balance work and life?
This is such a tricky one and probably the one I find the hardest. I love my work, and our teacher training business still needs me. I still start and/ or finish every new teacher training group and teach the pregnancy courses myself as much as I can.
But I have two granddaughters now, and want to spend time with them (plus I feel it’s also my job to help my daughters). I find I have had to learn to let go and allow others to teach where possible.
My house isn’t always tidy, the ironing pile would rival Trump tower, but these things aren’t important. My grandchildren will only be young once, so I don’t want to miss these early years. The beauty of Pilates is that it’s for life (we’ve come full circle) so I know when I’m ready to take on a fuller work schedule I should be fit enough to do so.
So, having just finished writing this piece for you I’m off to pick up my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter … baby ballet class today and Nanny has to join in!