by Steve Hadden
It was started by a circus performer and boxer in an internment camp in World War I. It’s used by modern dancers, hockey players, movie stars and NFL players. More than 11 million people in the U.S. make it part of their activity—more than hockey and racquetball combined. According to WebMD, it builds range of motion, flexibility, circulation, posture and abdominal strength and can decrease back, neck and joint pain…and it’s right here in the Old Central Business District of downtown Allen.
German born Joseph Pilates was a boxer and circus performer when he was placed in an internment camp in England during World War I. Imprisoned, Joe used his knowledge of anatomy and his skills as a body builder, wrestler and gymnast to work with other detainees who were injured or ill. He drew from Eastern practices and his Greek heritage to focus on mind, body and spirit. Using only what was available in the camp, like beer kegs and bed springs, he created the roots of the disciplined method of conditioning that still carries his name.
Pilates. The word used to invoke images of laid back spiritualist from the West Coast trying to be one with mother earth. Now, people from all walks of life, from grandparents to elite athletes, are spending as little as forty-five minutes two days a week reaping its benefits.
But it’s how this exercise regimen found its way into downtown Allen that is as unique as its beginnings. Cathy Baldasserini, the owner of Pilates For Life in downtown Allen, literally danced her way into Pilates. It all started when she was an officer of the Plano East drill team, “I loved it so much I went on to major in dance at the University of Oklahoma,” she says. That led to a scholarship to the renowned Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York City. It was there she was introduced to Pilates. “The school highly recommended we pursue Pilates to build strength, flexibility and an awareness of body positioning.”
While in New York, Cathy met a missioner who operated two shelters in India. He persuaded her to volunteer at a Home for the Dying and Destitute in Calcutta, across from the Mother House where Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity lived. There, she became extremely interested in helping others achieve wellness through the processes of the body. Upon her return, Cathy pursued premedical studies at Columbia University.
But it was Pilates that remained her passion. “I recognized that by applying my training and passion to help others in the field of Pilates I could fill a growing need for people of all ages and walks of life.”
That passion led her back to North Texas and her Pilates For Life Studio, located at 200 S. Austin Dr. in Allen. She’s been practicing Pilates and Yoga since 1996 and along the way has been certified through Physical Mind, Power Pilates, Polestar Pilates International and PMA. And while it all began with a passion for dancing, now Cathy helps people from all walks of life—from NFL players to young mothers to adults wanting to increase strength and flexibility. So if you’re looking for a way to get in shape here in North Texas, breathe in, breathe out and remember Pilates.
Steve Hadden is a thriller writer, Allen resident and author of The Sunset Conspiracy, Genetic Imperfections and The Swimming Monkeys Trilogy. Visit his website at stevehadden.com