Pilates instructor Sandi Weinberg climbs up a flowing silk rope and extends her legs while suspended in mid-air. This is one of the more advanced exercises she offers clients at her Pilates Performance studio in South Asheville.
A certified teacher who has studied Pilates extensively, Weinberg works with clients in her “Roots to Wings” classes that she offers to individuals and small groups. Using a proprietary feet-first approach she has developed, Weinberg helps people enhance their balance, body alignment and strength through exercise.
Weinberg is quick to point out that many of her clients are older adults. About 60 percent of the people she works with at 70 years of age and older. There’s nothing better than getting an 80-year-old person moving in a positive direction, she says.
“As we age, we can rejuvenate our overworked large muscle groups … by initiating movement in our under-developed abdominals,” she says.
“I didn’t start using aerial silks until I was 50,” Weinberg adds.
Before moving to the Asheville area last year, Weinberg operated a pilates studio in Florida where most of her clients were in the “active older adult” category.
“I made those clients my family,” she says.
A former professional dancer, Weinberg began taking Pilates classes 20 years ago to help improve her performance and level of fitness.
“It’s like dance in that it is a progression,” Weinberg says of pilates.
“Pilates may appear intimidating at first glance, just like any unfamiliar exercise,” she says. “But you don’t have to be fit or thin to begin—you just have to be present and dedicated.”
A person’s body responds to pilates because most of the exercises are done while lying flat on the back, she explains. The Pilates equipment in Weinberg’s studio is designed for exercises that engage the feet and lower abdominal muscles while also working the arms and rest of the body.
“I want my clients to feel comfortable,” she says.
To demonstrate the use of Pilates apparatus, which features a bed frame with a sliding carriage and adjustable springs, Weinberg reclines on it and flexes her feet and legs.
When working with clients who have health-related issues, Weinberg tailors the exercises to help them gain strength without straining muscles. Having coped with Crohn’s disease in her life, Weinberg understands the challenges of physical concerns and the benefits of exercise.
“Movement is the lifeblood of the body,” she says. “Everyone wants to lead a life of full mobility, but people often ignore the importance of circulation and balance.”
There is a mind-body aspect to pilates, she observes. By helping people to get moving you also fight ageism, she adds.
While working with people in her studio, Weinberg also encourages them to find ways to incorporate exercises in their daily lives.
“That’s the secret,” she notes.
While brushing your teeth, you can do foot exercises, she says. Maintaining an awareness of body alignment and correct posture also is beneficial as people go about their daily activities.
The Pilates technique has been around for almost a century, having been created by Joseph Pilates in the early 1920s.
“Its principles are simple and physical payoffs are large, particularly for people concerned about aging well,” Weinberg says.
A North Carolina native who spent most of her childhood in Hickory, Weinberg opened her studio in Asheville a year ago.
In addition to working with clients in her studio, Weinberg also teaches dance classes and has choreographed performances for the Asheville Ballet. She is looking forward to working with young dancers who will perform in a fall concert.
By Sandra Barnes