By Gill South
9:30 AM Monday Nov 19, 2012

Gill South heads for the pool to join an innovative new exercise class learning aqua Pilates.

Well, as you know I naturally gravitate towards anything that involves water - apart from swimming lap after lap after lap down a pool which bores the pants off me.

I have gate-crashed one of the first Aqua Pilates classes at my sports club, Next Generation, and the friendly woman who rather terrified me with her Pilates class a few weeks earlier, Heather Stewart, is running it. Her Pilates class is definitely directed more at types who know what they are doing rather than wannabes like me.

But it turns out the aqua Pilates class is much more my standard. Heather, who has her own company with her mother, Studio Pilates, is feeling her way with the class, figuring out what works and what doesn't, so there is nothing too testing. At this point there is no formal format for aqua Pilates which suits me down to the ground. I'm very happy to go along for the ride as this energetic Kiwi breaks new ground.

In today's class we do a lot with our noodles, so to speak - those over-sized shoestring-shaped things made of foam which children use when they are first learning to swim. We middle-aged ladies sit astride them like a circus ride, paddling with our legs and arms. It's not a million miles from some of my aqua zumba stuff but there's no loud music and the instructor is in the pool with us getting as wet as the rest of us.

Heather tells me she is taking her ideas direct from Pilates but still getting her head round how the water builds up the resistance and how your body copes with that. When doing aqua Pilates you have to keep a close eye on your alignment and to get the water resistance right, says Heather. If you do an exercise where you take your leg behind you, for instance, if you don't not know how to keep your spine "in vertical" you will feel it in your back, she says. In water you can always get more from your body if you can hold your spine up.

As with Pilates, we do the frog, scissors, the abdominal series and side kick series if that means anything to you Pilates types. We also use foam weights (my kind of weights) doing exercises just under the surface of the water to use the resistance there. It's a bit like boxing. Heather uses the noodle and the foam weights, to help us with the Pilates shapes, she says.

"I'm loving it, I was really sore after last week," Heather tells me gleefully. Being sore is a good sign in her book. Ah, we have so little in common apart from our love of the water.

I've missed a couple of classes but intend going back when life calms down. Heather says she is timing it better the more classes she does. I hope they haven't got all fabulous in my absence.

Aqua Pilates is a good one for me, says Heather. With my favourite sport, tennis, I do things that shorten my muscles. I have to counter-stretch to help my body recover, she says.

Trust me to do exercise that's bad for me, typical.

Heather puts it well when she says aqua Pilates is a bit like synchronised swimming - oh yes, that's another idea for me isn't it? I used to love those Esther Williams synchronised swimming movies, a genre of their own.

Download PDF: Gill South Splash and grab_19.11.12

"Every workout brings something new and I love seeing the changes in my body, my waist is slimmer, I'm hooked!”

“The control, grace and balance I have now in my body is thanks to the pilates method - I love the reformer, its changed my life!”

“My mind is cleared and my body worked out each time, it’'s the perfect workout”.

“I've got arm muscles and ab definition now, soon I'’ll have a new body. I'm so happy that I've stuck with pilates.


"I love my weekly Pilates classes with smiley Heather. I began with her 8 years ago when I got breast cancer and needed to continue with some form of gentle home exercise while I went through chemotherapy.

Following reconstruction, the one on one reformer sessions helped strengthen and realign my “new body”. I have become stronger, straighter and love my increased flexibility and strength.

My husband has been going to Heather weekly for 5 years - and I can see the benefits in his body too."

Dr Nicky Cranshaw


Studio Pilates Auckland Ltd

Address: The Institute of Sport & Physiotherapy
Ground Floor
128 Kyberpass Road


021 124 9035