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Big Beautiful Woman Magazine - April 1995

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Jillian Hessel Pilates Exercise
Call 310-246-0082 in Los Angeles California Pilates Video


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Big Beautiful Woman magazine

April 1995, pages 37 ff.

A Whole New Way to Live in and Love Your Body
by Linda Arroz

Pilates — what is it? Pilates is a 75-year old "overnight sensation" developed by Joseph Pilates, fitness guru to Martha Graham and George Balanchine. Pilates designed a method of movement that tones, strengthens and elongates the muscles without adding bulk. (Good news for BBWs.)

Pilates' original program was designed to rehabilitate injured dancers. A frail child, he suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. In his efforts to overcome his childhood afflictions, he studied different cultures, discovering meditation, yoga, Zen and the exercise routines of the ancient Greeks and Romans. All this research paid off: Pilates went on to become a circus performer, boxer, skier and gymnast.

According to Joan Briebart, president of the Institute for the Pilates Method [now called the Pilates Physicalmind Institute — webmaster's note], "The Pilates method is perfect for any audience because it is a non-impact, balanced system that works as well for the very fit individual as it does for the injured and older population. Recent research studies have shifted the emphasis in fitness from aerobics to strength training, which has fueled the demand for techniques such as Pilates, which work all the muscles in the body."

Maybe many of you share my experience in getting your fitness act together. As an editor, I am able to try out different kinds of fitness equipment, but many of them hold no appeal. Videos can do the trick, but most of them seem to be designed for someone with an advanced dance degree, not the average person. Not to mention many of us have physical limitations that a video can't address. Add to the list the family fitness centers or gyms, aerobics classes and that early morning walk with a friend or neighbor. The gym is usually crowded and loud with a built-in intimidation factor as I compare my body and my outfit with the superstars of the Stairmaster. A failure at aerobics classes, my coordination and my ego couldn't keep up. The walk with the neighbor works some of the time, but when one of us cancels, it's an excuse to sleep in. Been there, done that. I decided to find something I could stick with and enjoy, which is the whole key to exercise. If you look forward to it, you have a much better chance at success.

Lesley Durnin

Determined to find a form of exercise that fit my personality, lifestyle and body, I contacted Jillian Hessel, posture expert and owner of The Well-Tempered Workout* in West Hollywood, California, a unique and comprehensive fitness program that melds dance, yoga and the Pilates method.

I first heard about Pilates from plus-size model Lesley Durnin, who achieved miraculous results with the Pilates method almost overnight (see photo). I was amazed at the changes in her body. She has become one of the most popular lingerie models in the large-size industry.

Jillian gave me a tour of her airy, light-filled studio and introduced me to a series of charts on the muscular and skeletal systems. The hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone is connected to the knee bone....

A real eye-opener, the orientation made me realize how much I don't know about my own body. (The human body is an amazing machine, but it doesn't come with an owner's manual.) We then went on to determine objectives for my workout sessions. It was nice to set goals that were manageable and attainable, and that didn't require me to worry about my weight.

My goals were to improve my posture, increase my flexibility and stamina, and empower myself with more knowledge on how to care for my body. With each Pilates session, I had an increased awareness of how I moved. "The results should look as good as they feel," says Hessel.

Changing your posture can change your life. I walk taller, and people have suggested I might have lost weight, and I have lost some, but the big change is that I'm really in alignment. Adjusting the way you walk, stand and sit can alter some of those lumps, bumps and bulges, like the "dowager's hump" and a protruding abdomen. Taller women and women with larger breasts have a tendency toward rounded or stooped shoulders. Women who had breasts before everyone else got them tend to be more concave in the shoulders and rib cage. Many women complain of back and shoulder pain due to the weight of the breasts. It only makes sense then to build strength in the upper and middle back to support the breasts and improve posture.

The good news is the body responds quickly to a little TLC and some sensible maintenance. "Improve the quality of life by strengthening the body/mind connection and increasing body awareness. We have to live in our bodies all our lives, so we may as well live in comfort," says Hessel.

During a Pilates session, the luxury, of course, is having an instructor who is focused on you and who will guide you through a series of movements designed for your fitness level and your personal fitness goals. Each session works your entire body with deep stretching and breathing techniques and movements that engage your center — the abdominal muscles. The movements are performed slowly and with concentration. And unlike other exercise routines, you feel physically and mentally relaxed after each session.

"Pilates is better than a massage for relieving stress," says BBW's Jeani Volker, who has been working out at The Well-Tempered Workout since last October. Volker's goals were to improve her awareness of how her body moves and correct a tendency toward a swayback. Well on her way to achieving her goals, Volker feels the Pilates method has challenged her to follow Hessel's advice throughout the day by paying attention to her posture and alignment while doing simple things like getting in and out of her car.

"Sitting up, not sitting down, is a good visualization for better posture, especially when working at a computer or when you're stuck in traffic. The whole idea is to sit up out of the hips instead of sinking down into the hips. You know the whole posture credo: chin up, shoulders back? It's wrong. The same goes for the charm school balance-a-book-on-your-head stance. These movements force the body into unnatural, exaggerated positions," states Hessel.

There is specialized equipment for the Pilates method. The main machine is called the Universal Reformer. A sliding platform with straps for arm and leg movements, it has adjustable springs that offer weight resistance. There is also a series of movements for floor work. These I now do at home between sessions, but they were my introduction to the Pilates program. Mat work is more affordable than a one-on-one session, and many studios offer these classes.

Pilates will motivate, stimulate and challenge you to make changes in your life. The transformation I have experienced in five months of sessions has been profound. I have more energy, I am much stronger, and I feel confident in the way I look as a large woman. The lessons I have learned about movement will stay with me for the rest of my life. The results were immediate and exhilarating. The mind controls the muscles, the muscles control the bones, and where the mind goes, the body follows.

*The studio is now closed; however, Jillian still offers
 private and semi-private Pilates training.

© 1995 Big Beautiful Woman magazine


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Jillian Hessel Pilates

Los Angeles, California
Phone 310.246.0082

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