Light filters through the studio, ethereally grazing over state-of-the-art Pilates equipment lining the walls and illuminating the new hardwood floor. The sparkling new Pilates equipment somewhat resembles medieval torture devices with all its metal frames, coils of springs, straps and pulleys. But Lane Howard, owner of Imprint Movement Studio located on 1316 Sherman Ave., uses these machines to turn workouts into anything but torture.
Created in the 20th century by Joseph Pilates, the Pilates method started out as a series of rehabilitation techniques. Today, the exercise system not only alleviates body pain, but also transforms the way the body looks, feels and performs.
“Pilates is so much about the mind and body coming together,” Howard said.
Instead of promoting aggressive repetitions like conventional workouts do, Pilates conditions the entire body to prevent muscular imbalance. At Imprint Movement Studio, Howard offers toners and cadillacs — raised horizontal table-tops with various bars and levers — to provide direct spring tension to its users. Students perform these exercises while lying down.
Howard’s reformers fill most of an entire adjoining room, with gliding platforms that allow users to push and pull off a foot bar in a controlled manner while the spring tension massages the working muscles.
“The reformers are the most popular pieces of equipment,” Howard said. “People can sit on them or lie down or even stand up. The machines really help promote torso stability and balance.”
After spending the past four years teaching classes in Chicago, Howard decided to relocate to the Evanston area. Realizing the suburb had a shortage of Pilates offerings, she opened Imprint Movement Studio this past August.
“I noticed Evanston doesn’t have many studios that offer mat classes,” Howard said. “Here at Imprint, we teach contemporary Pilates, which works to customize a workout for each individual. Instead of having people’s bodies meet the demands of exercise, Pilates can really meet everyone where they are.”
Self-described as previously unathletic and inflexible, Howard experienced the miraculous effects of Pilates after a series of critical car accidents between the years of 1996 and 1998.
“I kept getting rear-ended when I lived in Colorado,” Howard said. “And I developed severe problems with my back and neck. I had debilitating migraines and had to get regular shots of cortisone in my neck.”
Howard’s physical therapist recommended that she try Pilates. After a few years of practice, she began to feel stronger and more flexible.
Joseph Pilates wrote in his book, Return to Life through Contrology, “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”
Howard said she increased her body awareness and began to form long, lean muscle. Pilates emphasizes proper breathing, core alignment and activation along with close attention to graceful, flowing movement. Because of the intense concentration required to practice the Pilates method, she became highly aware of how her body feels and how to control her movements.
“Pilates gives you a sculpted form and helps your body move more efficiently,” Howard said. “It’s particularly effective if you’re an athlete. It’s a great cross-training tool because it is so technical and helps you identify which muscles are being used and which aren’t.”
After years of Pilates, Howard’s migraines stopped and her neck and back pain disappeared. She has not only rehabilitated herself through Pilates, but has also worked with many clients suffering from various body injuries.
“I’ve had clients who had problems with the cartilage in their knees,” Howard said. “I’ve trained triathletes. I’ve taught many yoga instructors. I also work with pregnant women. I just love Pilates! You can customize Pilates for everyone.”
Imprint Movement Studio offers both small group and private Pilates instruction from certified professionals, as well as personalized physical therapy and massage. Group classes range from four to 14 students per instructor, and multiple classes run at the same time.
To learn more about class offerings, visit Imprint Movement’s Web site.