By Léo Azambuja
Who would know that just by shifting the way we move would improve our lives dramatically? Joseph Pilates did. And just about anyone can benefit from it.
“Pilates is a form of exercise, but it’s also an entire method,” said Jennifer Davis, owner and instructor at Pineapple Pilates in Lihu‘e. “It teaches you how to move your body from the center out.”
Instead of using their joints — knees, feet, elbows, etc. — people learn to use their stomachs and smaller, neglected muscles close to their bones. By practicing Pilates, people gain more control of their movements, they become centered.
“It pulls you out of your joints, it lifts you up, out of your knees, out of your hips, gives you great posture, so you feel light on your feet,” Davis said. “You’re stronger, you’re more stretched, but it’s true flexibility, not gratuitous stretching.”
Pilates, she said, is good for everyone, and many professional athletes are doing it to improve performance. It works the muscles behind the big muscles, and also the ones right next to the bones. It gives people more energy, and since they become stronger, they are likely to do more in a day, to walk faster and further.
At Pineapple Pilates, Davis teaches small group classes as well as private lessons at Pineapple Pilates. Introductory classes last 75 minutes. After introduction, classes are shorter, 55 minutes.
The classes are either on a mat or using the apparatus — vintage-looking equipment developed by Joseph Pilates himself. Davis’ apparatus were built by a company called Gratz, the same company that built the apparatus for Joseph Pilates.
Pilates was initially called Contrology. It was a method of rehabilitation invented and perfected by Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer born in 1883. He was living in England when World War I broke out, and was sent along to internment camps. While incarcerated, he began developing his Contrology method. After the war, he returned to Germany, and then emigrated to the United States in 1925. In New York, he taught students well into the 1960s. He died at 83 years old on Oct. 9, 1967 in New York. After Joseph Pilates’ death, Contrology became known as Pilates, according to Davis.
She said one of her teachers was the late Ramana Kryzanowska, an injured ballerina who was the only one who Joseph Pilates taught his full method. Davis also learned from Kryzanowska’s daughter, Sari Mejia Santo, who became her friend.
“We are the purest method of pilates that exists,” Davis said. “We kept the method completely pure, nothing has been changed.”
All the exercises at Pineapple Pilates are the ones invented by Joseph Pilates, she said.
“We haven’t messed with anything,” Davis said. “This is the real deal, there’s nothing changed or altered. This is the real method.”
It was only eight years ago that Davis took Pilates for the first time.
“I was at a point in my life where I needed to make a change and I went through all the things I enjoyed doing, and kind of started (Pilates) with an open mind,” she said.
From the beginning, she fell in love with it.
“It was incredible, it made me feel different than I’ve ever felt, and I was able to do things that I didn’t know that I could do,” Davis said.
To this day, she still feels challenged. It’s such an intricate method that there is always something to be learned, she said, it never gets boring. She was so intrigued by it that she wanted to learn more and more. A year into practicing Pilates, Davis started teaching it.
“I just love to help people,” she said. “I knew how much it helped me, it gave me tons of confidence, and just overall it changed my whole life, and I wanted to pass it on to other people.”
Davis is also big in giving back to the community. Prior to moving here, she was living in the Dominican Republic, where she donated 100 percent of her profits to families in need. Here on Kaua‘i, she supports organizations such as the Kaua‘i Humane Society, the Kaua‘i Independent Foodbank and others. Every Monday, there is a free class for veterans at 2:30 p.m. And every month, Davis picks some organization to help. In February, whoever brought used clothing for the Women’s Shelter, got a free class.
“Usually, if you bring something in, you get a free class, that’s how it works,” she said.
Classes are Monday through Saturday, with a varied schedule, with group and private lessons available. Davis said she keeps it affordable, with ongoing specials. She says she is probably the cheapest Pilates studio on the island.
Pineapple Pilates is on the second floor of Harbor Mall in Nawiliwili, at 3501 Rice St. Suite 2002. Visit www.pineapplepilates.com or call 635-5955 for more information.