By Victoria Bamber
As a society, we appear to be on a bit of a health kick. Gone are the days where a McDonald’s quarter pounder is followed by a couple of pints in the pub, a snooze at home and a takeaway from the local chippy for dinner. Edinburgh has woken up to a health revival, and with a vague sense of trepidation, I followed.
Of course, living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t just involve bypassing Greggs the bakers (unfortunately,) it also involves exercise. One of the less intimidating forms that Edinburgh has to offer is Pilates – designed to improve strength, flexibility and overall fitness levels, using a combination of breathing techniques, stretches and balancing activities.
Described as ‘one of the safest forms of exercise’, Pilates has built quite a reputation within the city – yet having no previous experience myself, I knew little of what to expect before attending my first class. The class under scrutiny was AtticSalt Pilates Studio, run and taught by Jo Munro. Situated on Thistle Street Lane just off Hanover Street, the studio has an excellent location in the heart of the city and was easy to navigate without the use of a map or perfect local knowledge.
The studio itself was exceptionally impressive and had a light, refreshing atmosphere complimented by high ceilings and contemporary decor. (Sweaty school gymnasiums and aerobics classes in the local village hall should take numerous leaves out of this professionally styled book.) At AtticSalt there are numerous styles of Pilates on offer, including equipment, mat and mother and baby classes depending on preference and ability. Bypassing the rather daunting yet wholly intriguing equipment studio; I opted for the mat class, where each member is presented with their own mat, cushion, Spikeyball (really) and elastic exercise band.
With room for around 12 participants, the mat class at AtticSalt Studio has an intimate feel to it without feeling too ‘on show’ or overcrowded. Beginning with foot stretching and breathing techniques, each exercise worked a different part of the body by sculpting poses and using toning techniques made ever more famous recently by Pippa Middleton and her increasingly admired behind. Although each position was challenging (and painful in places,) the stretches did feel rather satisfying and indeed managed to loosen tension in muscles which often seize up over the working day.
“Jo is an experienced and friendly teacher”
As a complete and probably very obvious novice, one of the main attractions of Pilates is the fact that each member of the class can undertake the poses at their own pace in a way that suits them best. As anticipated, a few participants had injuries which prevented them from achieving certain poses, yet Jo offered alternative pieces of equipment and adaptations of exercises in order to work around ailments, yet still allowing the guest to complete a thorough workout. One of the other appreciated aspects of the class was that each movement was fully explained and extra information supplied upon request. Harder elements were added for those who wished to challenge themselves further.
Coming in at around an hour, the Pilates class felt both demanding and challenging without exhausting or draining its participants. Designed to appeal to all ages and abilities, the style was not one which would have originally appealed to me, yet after taking part I can certainly see the attraction, although the lack of sweating or feeling out of breath at the end was a highly unusual and somewhat disconcerting feeling – although my muscles the next day did assure me I had in fact put some effort in at least.
Overall, I would recommend Pilates in general, but especially the AtticSalt Studio, for both an experienced friendly teacher and beautiful surroundings. AtticSalt Studio is reasonably priced, with professionalism and charm thrown in for free.
Images courtesy of Jo Munro.