North London Food & Culture

Chris Hocking, pilates instructor: Q&A

We speak with the founder of NW1's Pilates Body Awareness

You’ve been teaching for 30 years. How has the job evolved? I came to pilates as an aspiring dancer; between jobs I taught for the London Pilates Studios. Eventually, in my early 30s, I shifted my focus solely to pilates and started my own school soon after that. As I evolved – taking more interest in the idea of teaching teachers – I knew I needed to broaden my perspective and learn to be the kind of movement expert Joseph Pilates was. I replicated some of his training, a task made easier by my previous studies of the anatomy of bones, joints and muscles during my triple science A-Levels.

Then yoga came into my life, followed by karate. I decided that I needed to incorporate the precision and efficacy of martial arts teaching, the grace of the world of dance, the mindfulness of the body’s health from yoga and the anatomical knowledge from my studies.

Who comes to your classes? People from all walks of life, from doctors to artists, economists to teachers. It’s remarkable really, as is watching them all get on so well at social events.

Who should come? One would like to say, everyone. Of course all people need to exercise and all who do regular exercise feel incalculably better for it. It is a question of temperament. In a pilates class you must fully immerse yourself, mentally and physically but also retain your critical faculties when exercising. Pilates is both aesthetically pleasing with its grace and adherence to form but works on sound biomechanical principals. It becomes a most worthwhile form of exercise but it is hard work and does require complete concentration.


What do people take away from their sessions? Years ago I was told by a student (also a new mother) that the husband insisted on taking bottle and baby every Tuesday so she could get to her pilates class. “Just go,” he would say, “you will come back a nicer person.”

Stress-busting aside, pilates is a corrective exercise, helping to educate people into better posture and use of their body. Every class brings a sense of wellbeing and vitality. People often say that they feel taller after class. It makes you taller, fitter, calmer, more optimistic.

And the long-term benefits? As with all good and suitable exercise, it will hold back the ageing process. Pilates is especially good at this because of the scientific approach to the teaching of posture and movement, and the application of core strength to, let’s face it, the pretty vulnerable structure that is the human body.

It gets the joints working and all muscles in good condition. As we get older can educate us on how to open a door or lift a heavy weight effectively, also on how to or pay an elderly game of tennis without wrecking a knee. The sooner you start, the better.

What is unique about PBA? I would say our syllabus and our mat work classes at five levels enable everyone to train at the correct level for their fitness and ability. The super talented do not become bored to distraction, while new students don’t become overwhelmed.

Chris Hocking is founder of Pilates Body Awareness, at Academy Mews Dance Studios, Pratt Mews, NW1. For more info or to book a session head here.

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