Body Align- Mat Pilates with Darren

THE BASICS: This took part in an independent space in Elephant and Castle (2 mins from the station)  made up of brightly coloured, spick and span shipping containers formed into a corner of the area, much like the “Box Park” in Shoreditch. It’s starting to fill up with interesting and cute independent stores and studios- and new yoga and Pilates studio Body Align sits snugly in two of these containers.


THE CLASS: I turned up thinking I was 45 minutes early. Turns out I was just in time for the class. C’est typique! Hey at least this is an improvement on rushing in 7 minutes late and dripping with sweat.

I’ve talked quite a bit in the past between “making a choice” between being a yogi or a pilates puppy- and that I think if I had to pick one camp, I would be a yoga-rer. But there are similarities. Allow me to explain…

Pilates packs a punch in terms of core work. And this Body Align class was my first ever mat session (I’ve tried Pilates on reformer machines before), so it was basically like Pilates coming up to me in the street, jabbing me in the belly and saying “that’s not very good now, is it?!”

The class started. We were in a shipping container- with lovely free-to-use Manduka mats and some music in the form of an ipod dock in next to our trainer (and Body Align owner) Darren.

He took us through a whole body work out, with focus on our legs and abs. We moved from standing through to sitting, lying on our backs then our bellies… each time completing a number of reps. One thing I really struggle with is the core, and keeping it engaged when I am working through these Pilates moves. When you lie down, you need to keep your back as flat as possible, which draws your core in and sucks your tummy down and in- nice and taut! Darren was able to move around the class and check on our postures individually, which felt great to get 1:1 attention.

He was a calm but firm teacher- encouraging you to keep going if you were grimacing, but not really giving you the option to stop (and if I had my way I would just sit in class and hope merely being present affected my muscle tone). I found the lying-on-belly and lifting my legs really tricky, but I could tell my tummy and the muscle bands from tummy to legs were really getting a good repping over!

I think for me, Pilates lacks the whole-ness I feel when I practice Yoga- I feel like I am almost having an out of body experience when I am busy in a fast flowing yoga sequence. However, Pilates (particularly mat pilates) brings in yogic elements, the stretching, the breathing and the body-awareness.

I think, maybe that’s it! Rather than the out of body experience in yoga, I feel like I am having a very much IN-body experience during Pilates just because I am VERY aware of the isolated body parts you work, bit by bit. It’s less flowing, more concentrated. But you still have breathing elements and movements which at times reminded me of yoga. I’m honestly not of the opinion that one is better than the other- they’re just, quite simply, different. But I believe if you like one, you will definitely enjoy the other.

I certainly felt it in my abs the next day- I had to ban my colleagues from funny jokes just to stop the post-Pilates ab pain! Which wasn’t difficult for them, seeing their banter leaves a lot to be desired*

THE VERDICT: Sweet, interesting studio, guaranteed intimate class size, and good class. Darren gave options for beginners (me) and intermediates (rest of the class) which was a nice touch. I also loved the manduka mats. Quirky, shipping container-esque luxury has arrived in Elephant and Castle!

THE EXTRAS: Best part of the class- when Darren told us his mum had made the curtain at the far end of the shipping container! Long live the independent fitness studio and the lovely, inspiring entrepreneurs who run them. Oh and I also managed to do a whole class next to my fitness pal Alison without realising it was even her until the end! I must have been in the zone!

*Disclaimer- I work with probably the funniest group of people I have ever met- that was merely my attempt at banter against them.

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