The widely held misconception about pilates is that it involves a lot of lying on your back and graceful flailing, and that it is, by extension, a bit of a doddle. Well, some of that is true: there is a lot of lying on your back, and pilates movements do inject grace into normal flailing, but it is no doddle. Rather, it is the most hard-core, and will, done right, result in you developing the most hard core you’ve ever had.
I discovered this at the hands of Vesna Pericevic, a blonde Bosnian livewire who does not take no for an answer. I had my first class with her about six years ago, and it is no exaggeration to say that my relationship with my body changed as a result. It only took a couple of sessions with her, combing reformer pilates, some work on a Bosu ball, and the odd bout of matwork, for everything to start changing shape. Shapeshifting! No mean feat.
The woman knows bodies, there is no doubt, but she’s a special sort of magician with women’s bodies in particular. Vesna focuses on form and precision, and on making adjustments that respect your body’s natural abilities.
At her new studio, Alta Celo, in Kailash Hills, her focus has expanded from pilates alone to an arsenal of physiotherapy, functional training, reformer pilates, some barre work, and even the odd bit of pole dancing (ridiculously difficult, I tried). I spend the duration of any given class with her swinging wildly between “I can do this” and “I absolutely cannot do this” to “is this bitch serious?” and “oh god everything burns”. (To clarify I love her.)
My last session included a quick burst on the reformer that left my legs burning, a couple of go’s on the Cadillac and Wunda chair that left me sweaty but determined to get through it, and a bunch of work with the pole, at the end of which I’d reluctantly made my peace with the fact that the sexy legs-over-head action that Vesna did so effortlessly might still be a little way out of reach for me.
In another barre class, the focus was on precise little ballet manoeuvres and prancing around her studio trying to be light on my feet and pas-de-bourrée-ing, and I didn’t really know what I was working…until the next morning. If you thought I’d been less than graceful in class you should’ve seen me when every muscle I didn’t know I possessed all collectively howled in protest the next morning.
Alta Celo means ‘higher purpose’ in Esperanto, and even though my purpose at the moment is just a higher arse, and sinewy arms, there is no question that my training with Vesna, both the work we’ve done on the reformer as well as off, has set me up in every other thing that I do; I’ve had trainers at other gyms comment on my form, or on the fact that I pick up and adapt to new movements with ease, and that’s all her too. Part workout, part mind-body exercise, I cannot recommend getting in a session with her more.