Pilates pilots the way forward for mental health
A sports therapist who was bullied at school and suffered from the eating disorder and mental health condition bulimia has opened a new Pilates studio which is having a marked impact on the mindset and health of her clients.
At school, Beth Brougham was shy and was often bullied for being different to the other, more confident girls. Although she was not academically orientated at school, Beth’s father, who was a PE teacher, encouraged her to apply herself to sports and physical exercise.
Beth had a love of horses and she began working in a number of stables within the competitive horse racing industry. After many years, and countless injuries, she left the industry and studied sports therapy at Newcastle College where she obtained her degree.
Anxiety and depression still lurked in Beth’s life but she didn’t tell anyone and developed the eating disorder bulimia. However, she also found a keen interest in Pilates and personal training which helped her not only understand the nature of the injuries she’d received horse riding, but also helped her to fight her anxiety and depression as she became more positive and her mental health improved.
Following five years working as a sports therapist with North East rugby clubs she decided to start her own business and set up a small practice in Jesmond - A1 Infinite Performance.
Her ambitions and childhood dream of helping people to live healthy lives took a new turn when an investor helped her to grow the business and find new, larger premises.
Her new space was found in Newcastle’s east end in the old Trewitt Road School in Heaton. The 5,000 sq ft building is big enough to carry out multiple classes and therapies and boasts the North East’s first aerial Pilates class where participants use hammocks and silks attached to the ceiling.
Pilates aims to strengthen the body in an even way, with particular emphasis on core strength to improve general fitness and wellbeing. Mats or specialist equipment are used including Reformers where pulley systems and springs provide either support or resistance depending on the client's needs.
Pilates was developed by German-born Joseph Pilates, who identified the important connection between mental and physical health. Interred in a British prisoner of war camp during World War One, he developed a system of using only mats to improve strength and fitness. After the war, his system was adopted by professional dancers who used Pilates to increase flexibility, strength and stamina.
Even though Beth’s business has grown, she keeps her classes small so that everyone gets the individual attention they need to develop their fitness – both physical and mental.
In terms of helping people with health problems, Beth believes that Pilates is an underused tool which has massive benefits.
Beth explained: “Because of practising Pilates, I am much more positive in my outlook to life. It’s a great form of exercise as it connects both body and mind together and allows you to focus on what’s important. We have a lot of customers who use our classes to help them cope with struggles in their lives. For example, we have cancer survivors building up their physical strength, people who have forms of depression and anxiety and others who simply want to feel or look better. One thing they all have in common is that they all come here to a non-judgemental calming environment. We encourage relaxation and don’t give anyone any pressure to perform. It’s a safe haven for many, and one that has changed my life for the better.
“We live in a 500 mile-per-hour world and it’s good to come into the centre and slow down, work at your own pace and forget the challenges of the outside world. If I can get through the bulimia and anxiety and depression with my now successful life, then I can teach others how to do the same through our classes in a safe sanctuary.”