Interview with a Pilates Teacher
Murielle Carrasco has run the Garage Studio in Barnes since 2003 and strives to make it a friendly environment teaching Pilates, Yoga and Gyrotonic. I found it to be just that and in spite of being a slightly ungainly and overweight bloke was made to feel welcome when I went to visit her and ask some questions about her work, thoughts on exercise and in particular her new posture workshop.
I know what Pilates and Yoga are but what is Gyrotonic?
The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® is a body-mind exercise therapy aimed at balancing the body physically and, more importantly, energetically. It uses circular, spiraling movements and special breathing patterns and rhythm to open energetic pathways in the body and create cardiovascular stimulation.
Which is the most popular at the moment? Why do you think so?
At the Garage Studio, Pilates is, because it is our speciality. Yoga and Gyrotonic came later. Quite a few clients do Pilates and Yoga or Pilates and Gyrotonic. They all are body-mind techniques that rebalance the body and complement one another.
Do you find people come to your studio with specific concerns or just a general desire to be in better shape?
Classes cater for people who have back or neck pain because of muscle tensions or are generally fit. The classes focus on postural rebalancing at a beginner’s stage and challenge the entire body at the more advanced stage.
We recommend the Pilates Studio sessions to clients who are injured or have back pain, like sciatica or disc problems. They are given a personal program that suits their ability and condition. Because they share the studio with only one or two clients, they are more supervised so in a safer environment.
I love doing yoga but can still feel a bit shy in a room full of people in better shape than me. How do you overcome this at your studio?
We have a beginners and a general class so you are more likely to share the room with people who are at your level. Yoga is not about how much you stretch your body (nobody needs to put their foot behind their ear!); it is a gradual process of balancing the body and mind using the breath. Also both Cath and I are Iyengar trained so we know how to use props effectively to make people comfortable in all postures.
You have recently started a posture clinic. What sort of people have you helped and has there been any posture problem more common than others?
In the recent years, my clientele has changed from middle age woman to fit 30 year olds with disc problems! They all spend hours slouching! They slouch at their desk, in their car, on the sofa and the few hours at the gym or playing football doesn’t seem to compensate for their bad posture. So I started Posture4U, workshops to teach people how to behave in everyday life so they don’t end up in agonising pain. They have proved very popular with everybody, young, not so young, fit, not so fit to really fit, husbands, mums and even teenagers! Most common issue is non-specific chronic back and neck pain, and it is always because of bad posture. I’ve just started a blog, which gives people free advice and tips on posture. Check www.posture4u.co.uk for all information.
This question is probably unfair but can you suggest one thing that we could all do to help our posture?
As we spend hours sitting, learn how to sit correctly! Avoid slouching and do not sit still for more than one hour. The body is designed to move. That is why I love the Back App stool so much!
Have you observed posture problems changing in the last ten years or so?
Yes, unfortunately my clientele is getting younger. Last May, there was an article and a TV program about how children are getting more back ache, apparently 50% of children are suffering with back ache compared to 15% only a few years ago. Too heavy back packs and too much slouching are the main reasons.
Do you get more men or women coming to your classes? Who tend to have the better posture?
There are still more women coming to classes but lately more couples and men have joined the classes. The cliché is still valid: men are stronger but stiffer and women are more flexible but weaker. Frankly nowadays with the advance of technology, we all need to work on our posture and stay active!
Have you ever suffered an injury that pilates has helped you overcome or recover from more quickly than would otherwise be the case?
In 2010, I feel down the stairs and locked my right sacroiliac joint. It was agony! I couldn’t walk for a week. With strong pain killers, osteopathy and Pilates, I was back teaching within three weeks and back to my original fitness level in two months! Looking back it was a good experience because I can now relate to some of my clients!
What drew you to open the Garage Studio? Would you recommend others to do the same?
Lack of space! I was running a program of classes at the White Hart Lane clinic. As my students got fitter and the demand for classes increased, we needed more room. One of my clients told me about the great space just up the road. As the studio was not doing very well, the landlord let me take over… We’ve been there since November 2003. It is a great job, you get to do what you like and you are useful to the community, I would highly recommend it to others. Just not in Barnes!
Tell me something surprising about yourself?
I’ve got a Masters in International Economics and a Doctorate in “Pensee economique et sociale”!
What do you sit on?
The stool I highly recommend to all my clients: the Back App stool! It is worth every penny and I’m so glad I’ve bought it as I am spending more time at a desk because of Posture4U. I’ve always preferred stools to chairs (you can check the reasons why on the Posture4U blog!) and I love the rocking motion. It is so good for your spine. I love the design too! I did a lot of research before buying it. My bottom has tried a lot of stools and chairs! The Back App stool is definitely the best for me. It allows the optimum sitting position, makes it hard to slouch, the gentle rocking prevents spine stiffness and hydrates the discs. The adjustment is simple (another reason to prefer stools!). It is very comfortable so I need a timer to take regular breaks! All my clients that have bought it love it too!