To the casual observer, it might not look like much is happening in a Pilates class as participants move from one exercise to the next, alternating between the use of props and free movement to work their major muscle groups.
“Breathe in and push out on the exhale,” says Whatcom Fitness instructor Patty Vezzetti, as she adjusts a student’s hand
position on the “magic circle,” a specially-designed rubber and metal ring that is used in a variety of ways and provides resistance during the workout. “Make sure you’re keeping your shoulders down and pulling your belly button in toward your backbone,” she says, walking around the room and keeping an eye on her students’ form.
When she sees someone whose legs aren’t properly aligned, she walks over and gently assists them with finding their proper position.
“I’m a lot more hands-on than other instructors,” Vezzetti said. “But I want people to get to know their body and what it is I’m asking to do.”
Slow and controlled, the efforts seem minuscule. But even though some participants may not even break a sweat during the hour-long session, the subtle, calculated movements combined with deep lateral breathing and resistance techniques are designed to tone muscles and improve core strength with every breath.
“It really puts the emphasis on your core muscles,” said Vezzetti, adding that having a strong core is an integral part of
balance, body alignment and healthy living. “I first started as a fitness instructor when we were in the huge gyms with a boom box and everything was fast. It all had to be fast. And a lot of injuries happened. This is a lot slower and easier on your body.”
But while the slowdown is good, traditional Pilates classes still have the potential for injury, especially for those who suffer from osteopenia or osteoporosis, which is characterized by a loss of bone density. In fact, according to an article by Rebekah Rotstein, the founder of Incorporating Movement, 75 percent of traditional Pilates movements can have negative impacts on participants who suffer from osteoporosis. In response, Vezzetti has opted to offer an additional, gentler version of the class called OsteoPilates at her Blaine gym.
Taking its cues from Pilates mat classes, this modified version caters to students’ personal needs and is ideal for those who want to improve posture and balance but suffer from bone degeneration.
“Traditional mat classes can put too much weight and strain on the spine,” Vezzetti said. “And we don’t want to be doing
forward flexion of the spine when we’re weighted down on the floor – it can cause more harm.”
She said the resistance training helps to build bone density and delay bone loss. “There have been a lot of studies that show that exercise is key to maintaining bone health,” she said. “And in this community, we’re at that age where that is an issue. In classes like this I can modify and help them find something to do, in spite of all kinds of health issues. There are a lot of fundamental elements in Pilates that are useful to teach.”
Vezzetti offers the modified class on Tuesdays from 10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., and has additional, more traditional Pilates classes on Monday and Wednesday at 12:05 p.m. and Thursday and Friday mornings at 9:30 a.m. at Whatcom Fitness, located at 250 G St in Blaine.
For more information, visit whatcompt.com.