Behind the reflective glass windows of a small Fair Haven studio is a pint-sized Pilates instructor on a big mind-body wellness mission to center and transform.
“Pilates is all about centering, mentally and physically — strengthening your body’s center and centering your mind on transformation,” said Sandi Vilacoba, owner of the new Pilates Project in the Acme shopping Center on River Road. “My life is Pilates. It has transformed me; and, having my own studio now affords me the opportunity to share with others the benefits what I see as a life-altering workout. I love teaching Pilates, because I love to see people transform. I can see a difference in a person’s posture from the beginning to end of a 55-minute session. They are walking taller and pulling their abdominals in and up.”
Vilacoba, a Lake Como resident with family roots in Fair Haven, teaches classical Pilates. What that means, Vilacoba explained, is that she models her instruction based only the exercises coined by Joseph Pilates — thus, the capital P — in the order in which he taught them himself.
Originally a man’s work-out, often referred to as a “system” for fitness that was created in the early 1900s by this “very fit German man,” Pilates’ popularity exploded at the onset of millennium.
While it became a celebrity trendsetter, Vilacoba, who was looking to manage her own chronic lower back and hip pain, made it a focal point of her life for the fitness of mind and body it offered under its basic principles: centering with a spinal focal point, control, concentration, flow, precision and breathing.
The now 35-year-old mother of twins first learned about Pilates as a dance student at New York University. After dancing and acting professionally, in 2003 Vilacoba became a certified classical Pilates instructor.
She trained with master teachers Susan Moran and Bob Liekens at Power Pilates in New York City and has taught ever since at various studios in the tri-state area.
While she said her Pilates commitment was always mind-strong, her active involvement in the exercise waned for a little while. Then, while enduring a difficult pregnancy with her twins, she put herself back on a fast track to the Pilates way of life.
Now, she said, you could say that their births gave birth to her business venture and even stronger mindset to motivate students in the teachings of Joseph Pilates. She is also certified in perinatal fitness via Healthy Moms.
Though Vilacoba has fine-tuned her Pilates knowledge and continues to take master classes to further hone it, she stressed that her teachings “can be tailored to any fitness level. It can challenge the strongest athlete and can also be modified for someone who is suffering from injuries or a bad back. And, keep in mind, it can be done during pregnancy.”
When you walk into the studio, the — all of it the Pilates students’ “little helper,” Vilacoba said. “A lot of people are used to hearing about Pilates as a mat exercise program. You can choose to do mat-only exercises, but the machines are here to help guide you through and make doing the exercises in the correct form and proper way a little easier — like a spotter.”
And doing the exercises in proper form is crucial, she said, since the Pilates premise is referred to as “controlology.”
“Controlology is complete coordination of mind, body and spirit,” Pilates has been quoted as saying.
Vilacoba couldn’t agree more, adding another of Pilates’ literal posturings:
"If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young."
“People who practice Pilates are aware of the way they move and walk and sit and stand,” Vilacoba said. “That awareness can keep their spine healthier long term.”
Vilacoba invites you to get young and stay young and sound of mind and body with her at The Pilates Project.
If you’d like to check out what The Pilates Project -- located at 560 River Rd., -- has to offer, there will be an open house, offering free classes from July 16 to 21. Check The Pilates Project Web site for further information.