You used to be a tennis coach, how did you make the transition to Pilates?
I first saw Pilates on TV in Australia and my sister was a dancer and they used Pilates as part of their training in the Australian ballet school. At the time there was only one Pilates studio in Australia and now there are about 300, I put my name on the waiting list and about six months later I got a call. That was nearly 25 years ago.
Why did you decide to open your own studio?
I trained at this studio for about eight years and then I started to do some teaching for them. I became an apprentice and after several years I decided that I’d like to open my own studio, which I did. After about three months my studio burnt down and by a funny coincidence, Joseph Pilates’ studio was also burnt down in a fire! That happened on September 11 so a day I’ll never forget! There was no insurance, so I lost everything, and so I made some equipment and started up again about four weeks later.
Why did you take the stretching route?
Joseph Pilates himself had always said that stretching was one of the essential qualities that practising Pilates would bring. You can find many quotes from him talking about flexibility and stretching and one of them is “if your spine is inflexible at 30, you are old, and if your spine is flexible at 60, you are young”. One of the reasons I took up Pilates was to become more flexible and after about 10 years of being a student I didn’t really feel that I was as flexible as I had hoped. There were many qualities that I did find, but not so much the flexibility. I decided I wanted to learn a lot more about stretching so I studied massage therapy, studied sports science, did some courses in physiotherapy and osteopathy not the full course, I just did some weekend courses. Over a number of years I learned a lot about stretching and I began to incorporate into the Pilates teaching I was doing. I found that If I adapted it to the reformer it made it even more effective. I then created “Innovations in Pilates”, which is really about integrating all that therapy and muscle stretching into the Pilates work and onto the Pilates equipment.
What improvement did you see in your body after the stretching?
Well, of course I’m going to say it’s a lot better, but it is, (he says laughing). When I first started I couldn’t reach my toes and now I can get my hands flat on the floor. Some 25 years later I can do things I would never dream of. I know that there are arguments about whether it will increase or decrease injuries. For me and the people I teach it, it just makes us feel a lot better, a lot freer a lot more open in our movements and if you feel more open and freer I think that helps you as a person helps you to be more relaxed.
For the benefit of those who are not familiar with your work can you tell us a bit about your Stiffies programme?
This Stiffies is a programme I run at home in Australia, Pilates based and with lots stretching and it’s men only. I’ve talked previously about not frightening men off by telling them they ‘need’ Pilates, but to talk to them about their condition, their stiffness, the absence of core strength and the importance of addressing those things. They come once or twice a week for an hour and a half. There’s a fairly flexible timetable so they can choose from a couple of groups when they can attend at times that suit men. Which is generally early morning or evening.
We do lots of work on the Pilates equipment. They work at trunk movements, extension, rotation and lateral flexion, a lot of stretching for hamstrings, hip flexors and pecs all of those things ; It;‘s for two reasons, to make them more flexible in general and, also if they wanted to perform the more classical repertoire much of that work is off-limits to them because they’re so stiff. So increasing their flexibility will enable them to do the more traditional work as well.
Many Pilates studios only have a 10 – 15% of males in attendance in classes and its a shame because the benefits of Pilates are so great so we had to find a way of attracting men into Pilates and one of them was to create this men only programme where it wasn’t ballet based or feminine but it was making it okay for men to do Pilates. Having them in a group without females has made them feel a bit more comfortable and a little less embarrassed.
I ask if the strength element is lost with all the stretching. Anthony says:
No. It’s about half & half, strength & stretch. Lots of traditional matwork or reformer work but with more emphasis on flexibility and less on core strength or general strength. Many them already have the strength, they may be athletes or cyclists or just desk bound people who are not necessarily weak, they’re just stiff.
Do you have any favourite exercise?
For me, I always need to stretch my hip flexors, they tend to become tight and they have a pretty big effect on the rest of your posture. I always stretch my neck. People seem to have a lot of neck tension.
What does the future hold?
I have been running retreats in Bali for a couple of years but it’s just for a few weeks. We hire a venue and that doesn’t have any equipment. What I would like to do is develop that a bit more by taking Reformers over there and setting up a retreat centre so that people can come over and they don’t have to do a formal course but they can do a couple of classes each day. Teachers might like do the Innovations in Pilates certificate or other courses like Anatomy in clay.
There’s a cooking school on site and a day spa, if people wanted to do different things, they would be optional activities like walking through the rice paddies or cycling up the volcano.
I am in the process of getting the course accredited so you could come along as a teacher and have a holiday and it’s tax deductible! At this point I suggest that PilatesTree would love to review this retreat when it’ s set up!!!
What is your birth sign?
It’s been an absolute pleasure Anthony. Thank you very much for your time.
To find out more, check out Anthony’s website Pilates Innovations