FAIRFIELD — What first struck former ballet dancers Mandy Bland and Mari Collins about Pilates was how natural it felt.
“It felt good. It felt familiar,” Bland said of the freedom of movement and flexibility that the physical fitness regimen gave her.
Collins said Pilates’ emphasis on improving flexibility and movement leads to the client feeling better about themselves, and that, in turn, brings them to look better.
After seeing what Pilates has done for them, the two decided to go into business and open up Pilates 360 Plus on Oliver Road, with the goal to share their love of Pilates and help clients develop strength, flexibility and balance through small-group settings that have a maximum of four participants.
“I fell in love with Pilates and wanted to share what I learned,” Collins said.
Pilates was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, who created a system of exercise that offers a complete workout for the entire body. They focus on breathing, centering, control, concentration and flow. There are approximately 11 million people who practice Pilates.
Collins is a former ballet dancer who discovered Pilates when she was looking for a way to get back into shape after having her fourth child. She chose Pilates due to its emphasis on core strength and flexibility, as well as building strong muscles without adding bulk.
Bland had also stepped away from ballet and decided to try out Pilates after hearing about it from her sister.
“I felt like I felt when I was dancing,” Bland said of her initial impression of the exercise regimen.
The two women met when Bland took one of Collins’ fitness classes and the two former dancers became fast friends. Soon, they also both realized they wanted to teach Pilates. In January 2012, “we took a leap of faith,” according to Bland, and they combined their years of experience with ballet, teaching and personal fitness training to open their studio on Oliver Road.
Pilates 360 Plus offers both private training and small group classes from Monday to Saturday in the mornings and early afternoons.
The small classes of four to five clients allow Collins and Bland to meet each client’s needs and give them the maximum benefit.
“It’s what we feel sets us apart – the attention we give to our clients,” Collins said. She described it as a “sense of family.”
Bland called the classes extremely rewarding because they promote women’s health, relieve pain and help improve lifestyles. And with the emphasis on working all of the muscles, “It’s like having a conversation with your body.”
For those who are just starting Pilates, the two women start off with private training to get their clients to build a level of confidence with Pilates before getting them into small group classes.
Once a month, the two also host a class for charity, where the clients’ fees go to a different community charity each month. Groups such as Toys for Tots, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano have benefitted.
For more information about Pilates 360 Plus, call 419-5019 or go to www.pilates360plus.com. It can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Pilates360Plus.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.