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@Work: Virgin Bodies

Feb. 17, 2005 – The group at Jessica Hendy Reiff's mat Pilates class is ready. There are some newcomers in the mix (myself included) and we're not quite sure what to expect. When Hendy Reiff breezes through the door, she brings sunshine and energy, and the class begins. In a matter of minutes she learns everyone's name and has an inventory of any past injuries. Before I know it, I'm breathing in and out on her count, isolating quivering muscles I didn't even know I had.
Time for some disclosure: At every exercise class I've ever taken, I'm that girl in the back who is chronically two steps behind everyone else. I'm accustomed to getting looks that range from quizzical (what is she doing?) to downright pity. That was not to be had in Hendy Reiff's class. Don't be fooled–Pilates is not for the faint of heart. The poses and exercises that begin with the powerhouse, also known as the core or deep abdominals, are not easy. It's just that with a gentle nudge, a hand placed on just the right muscle, or a simple verbal cue, Hendy Reiff has a way of getting you to do exactly what you're supposed to. Suddenly you know which muscles to concentrate on, you know how to breathe and the class is fun.
Hendy Reiff is the owner of Virgin Bodies, the first and only fully equipped Pilates studio in the territory, with custom-made aparatus to give clients the experience intended by founder Joseph Pilates. It's a system of exercises that focuses on creating core strength and support to facilitate a healthy spine. While it strengthens the abdominals, it also creates long, lean muscles.
When Pilates is done on a mat, your body can work on just a few planes; lying, sitting, kneeling or standing. Bringing the apparatus into the workout adds a dimension most people never dream of. Suddenly you're using springs, trapeze, pullies, straps, push-through bars and others.
"I feel the apparatus can take you to the next level. You can get to the poses without having to lift your body weight," says Hendy Reiff. At the same time, there is more resistance, so you get the most out of your training.
"You don't need to lift weights–your body weight is enough. Pilates is all about controlling the movement; resisting the arm down, controlling it up."
Hendy Reiff's studio includes such apparatus as a Cadillac, two Reformers, a High/Low Combination Chair and a Wunda Chair. All of the equipment is made to Joseph Pilates' design
How often you go to the studio depends on your goals, but Hendy Reiff recommends one to three times a week for best results. People who do Pilates regularly find they walk taller and hold themselves with the grace of a dancer.
Perhaps the best news of all: it's been said that Pilates promotes long life and reverses the aging process.
"Pilates finds weaknesses and restores healing through movement. A healthy spine is the fountain of youth; movement is the fountain of youth," says Hendy Reiff. "I've seen so many people's bodies change. Joseph Pilates said that in 10 sessions you'll feel the difference. In 20 you'll notice the difference. In 30 you'll have a new body."
Before getting into Pilates, Hendy practiced yoga for 10 years. But there was a little voice always whispering to her to try Pilates. There were some obstacles. "I was a broke actor in New York, and Pilates is expensive." But Hendy Reiff found a way to pay for it by trading work for sessions. Soon she was hooked, and became certified in Yogilates, a combination of her two passions, yoga and Pilates.
Still, there was more on the Pilates horizon to conquer. The next step was to become mat certified, which means she could teach Pilates without the equipment. Finally she was ready to make the Jedi-Master move–become certified on the Pilates aparatus through New York City's Power Pilates studio, widely recognized as the world's best training facility.
It was an intensive 600 hours of training; observing sessions, weekly meetings, written tests on Pilates and anatomy, practical tests and apprenticeships before she could teach on her own. Hendy Reiff also focused her studies on special-needs cases like pregnancy, the elderly and spinal injuries. To keep her certification she will take continuing education courses every year.
"If someone comes in with a herniated disk, I feel confident with them. I'm not a doctor and I don't pretend to be one, but I could safely take them through the Pilates method."
But Pilates is good for everyone, all shapes and sizes, not just those with back problems.
"It makes you feel good. Your body will be toned and beautiful. Who doesn't look in the mirror and have that vision of how they want to be? You look at yourself in jeans and think, 'these look great, if only.' Pilates will give that to you. You walk taller, your lines are more graceful. The result is beautiful."
As for me, I may not look any more graceful to outward appearances. But after an hour with Hendy Reiff, I may be sitting just a little bit taller at my computer. Not bad for a day at the gym.
Virgin Bodies is an autonomous business located at the Jackson Complex. To book your appointment or for more information, call Virgin Bodies at 776-6769.

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