STEVENSVILLE — Some 50 senior citizens have joined the Pilates class for workouts at the Kent Island Senior Center in Stevensville, every Tuesday and Thursday morning, beginning at 9. Using a large inflated exercise ball, students follow the instructions of Carole Cascio.
Cascio has been retired from teaching in Maryland colleges for many years, but she has taken her expertise as a “certified movement analyst” of the human body and been conducting classes at the senior center through the Chesapeake College’s “Healthy Living for Seniors” offerings.
The class uses exercise principles known as Pilates, from the philosophy of the late Joseph Pilates (early 20th century) — something he called “contrology” — to unify body, mind and spirit.
“The exercises we do operate under similar principles of yoga, except we’re using a ball,” Cascio said.
She presented these facts about what the Pilates system stresses:
1. Concentration: Promotes mind/body connection and enhances body awareness.
2. Centering: During workout, consciously bring your focus to the center of the body, which leads to calming body and spirit. Joseph Pilates called the center of the torso the “power house” from which all energy is derived.
3. Control: Based on mindfulness, control includes proper, safe and complete muscle control. Thus, one uses the exact and correct form, leaving no part of the body unattended. You direct each and every movement.
4. Precision: Execute with deliberate exactitude, which is more important than completing more repetitions with sloppier form. Thus, teachers give detailed instructions.
5. Breathing: Deep, controlled breathing, diaphragmatic breathing activates blood circulation and awakens cells and muscles.
6. Alignment: Head to toes stressing good posture and awareness of all body parts.
7. Flow: Completing the techniques through gentle flow. Grace, ease, and fluidity are the intention of Pilates. Continuous, smooth, elegant, transitions bring strength and stamina.
8. Integration: Breath, control, mindfulness, centering, alignment and precision unite as the many muscle groups work together to support and govern movement.
This is the third year Cascio has conducted the class, and it has grown to capacity.
“It was completely filed within the first two days the class was offered,” she said. “Those in the class realize what a deal they’re getting. In New York City, they’d be paying $50 per hour for what we’re doing. Here, the seniors only pay $30 for a twice a week, 15-week class per semester to be in the class through the college. The last class for this current semester ends in October.”
Several of the class members spoke highly of the benefits of Pilates exercises.
Jim Parker, 74, of Stevensville said, “I’ve been doing Pilates for 15 years. I also do yoga on alternate days. I’m inspired by watching people older than myself and some with disabilities who are doing this. Maintaining balance as your age advances is very important, and I feel the Pilates has helped me — it’s very positive. The balls and mats only cost about $15 each, and we have spare balls for people who want to come out and just try it. If they don’t like, nothing is lost, and give the ball back. And don’t make excuses — we all have little queues we deal with personally. Try it! I think you’ll like the people here too.”
Jerry Miante, also 74, has been doing Pilates for two years. He said, ‘I got involved when my doctor told me I had two degenerative disks in the upper part of my neck. He recommended I do Pilates or yoga. It has helped me stay more limber. I know I sit and stand taller because of the Pilates exercises. I have poor balance, and the Pilates has improved my balance overall, I’m sure of that.”
Marg Hardy of Grasonville is 85. She said, “I’m the oldest member of our Pilates class (though you’d never know it by the way she moves). I’ve been doing Pilates for eight years.” Marg is the mother of eight children, grandmother to 26, and a avid gardener.
She said, “The Pilates really helps with your balance. Before I started doing these exercises, I use to trip over everything. That doesn’t happen anymore. It most definitely helps you maintain and keep good balance.”
As far as her relationship with Cascio, she said, “Carole is the finest teacher I’ve ever had for anything. Carole is a really good teacher! I hold a party for our class at my house every year. We all come together, and it’s all because of Carole. We know she cares.”
Bob Jensen, 72, is also from Grasonville. He said, “I’ve done Pilates off and on for the past five years. I’m not always here because we travel some. I joined the class because I need to do an exercise to tone up my body. Pilates focuses on your core strength and keeps me flexible. It’s just what I needed.”
If you have an interest in being part of the next Pilates class, go online to see when it’s being offered again through Chesapeake College. Also, check out the other Healthy Living for Seniors offerings.