Pilates. The pandemic's greatest hero. When we were suddenly left alone with only our thoughts, Netflix and our couch, it was Pilates that saved us. Whether you were already an avid enthusiast, or rolled out a mat for the first time in the comfort of you living room; it was all mind, body and soul as we recharged, realigned and strengthened our way through lockdown. And while we certainly lapped up the many months of self-nourishment, as the world slowly returns to normal, it can be hard to keep in a rhythm. That's where Jacqui Kingswell, the master behind The Pilates Class, comes into play.
Staring her business right in the midst of the pandemic, Kingswell's rise to success is rooted in a deep understanding of her member's needs. Whether she's training supermodel Kaia Gerber, or connecting with Australian members back home, her approach to training is wholistic, focusing on benefits that extend beyond just the physical. An extra level of consideration we are all looking for in our fitness and wellness routines of late.
Here, Kingswell shares her thoughts on the importance of movement, how to maintain a routine as the world returns to normal and the most valuable advice she's been given.
Tell me a bit about how The Pilates Class came to be.
Right before The Pilates Class came to be I was working as an in person Pilates instructor and had been for quite a few years. Natasha Oakley, my now business partner, was one of my clients at the time. When covid hit and everything went online I began offering online sessions to my usual clients through Instagram Live sessions and that’s when Tash called me to tell me how amazing she felt after the virtual session and suggested I set up a simple site and private Instagram to begin charging a fee for my classes. We then noticed how quickly it was growing and the demand for online fitness that covid had created. After this, we sat at my kitchen bench and started planning and strategising ways to expand into a global platform; this is when The Pilates Class was born!
Have you always been interested in the fitness and wellness space?
I started ballet at the age of three, so dance and movement have always been part of my life. It was actually my dance instructors who introduced me to Pilates to complement my training with restorative exercises. I can remember the day that I understood pilates and all the benefits it offered. It completely changed my body, how I danced and my outlook on movement. Pilates has been fundamental to my overall health and fitness for most of my life and the benefits are just so incredible that I couldn’t imagine my life without movement.
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The Pilates Class is rooted in the idea of both nourishing the body but also relieving stress. Was this always a key consideration for you when you started?
These were definitely key considerations for us when we started, given the state of the world at the time we launched. We knew that people were turning to fitness and wellness then more than ever not only to stay healthy but using it as an outlet. When I step onto my mat, it signifies a time for me to connect to myself and how I am feeling that day and this is something I wanted all of our members to feel. Once you experience the benefits of getting on your mat everyday and taking that time for yourself to focus on your body and the movement, you will understand the mental and emotional benefits that come with it. In my classes, I always want members to experience a workout with a deep burn, I want them to feel grounded after the class and to carry that feeling throughout the rest of the day and week ahead.
In such a short period of time, the business has seen such profound success. What sets The Pilates Class apart?
I believe what sets us apart is our focus on building community with our members and our emphasis on the connection between the mind and body. For me, Pilates is really a mind-body practice. I truly believe that the benefits of Pilates extend beyond the physical benefits and that is something I always wanted to share with as many people as possible, and now get to do so through TPC. For me a physical workout wasn’t enough, it needed to give me more. With years of practice and being in a studio with some of the most incredible teachers and mentors, I’ve now developed The Pilates Class method and get to share and experience that with others. The member testimonials that I love the most are about the mental and physical benefits they’ve achieved through The Pilates Class, how their outlook on wellness has shifted and how they look forward to getting on their mat everyday.
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You inspire others to take a more committed approach to wellness, but what’s your personal ethos and how do you implement it into your daily life?
I always tell our members, listen to your body and do what is going to serve you. That is my personal ethos and something I live by. I try to be as transparent with my members as possible by letting them know that commitment can look different for everyone depending on what they are going through that week. I make a point to get on my mat each day for a class with the intention of following that week's schedule but I also listen to what my body is telling me – and if some days I feel like I need a stretch, calm class or rest day, that’s perfectly ok. That is me showing commitment to my wellness and body.
You work with and train so many different people – from celebrities, to beginners and everyone in-between. How did you create The Pilates Class to be such an approachable workout for people of all fitness levels?
My favourite thing about Pilates is that it focuses on technique and you can really play around with the difficulty of it. For beginners, I emphasise learning the foundational movements and connecting the body to the breath. If you have a bit more experience with Pilates, I encourage our members to learn to really lengthen and engage their bodies and get the most out of each movement. Everybody is different and everyday is different so if you can’t fit a 45 minute Pilates class into your day, that is totally ok! We have classes ranging from five to 45 minutes for whatever mood you are in.
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Over time, we’ve seen Pilates workouts take on different forms and adopt varying approaches. From your perspective, what is the most valuable learning someone can take from this kind of training?
In my opinion, the most valuable insight from Pilates is taking what you’ve learnt and applying it both on and off the mat. After practicing Pilates consistently, you will notice you carry your body differently throughout your day. You will stand taller, you will notice your posture improving and core engaging. Pilates principles will follow you throughout your entire life. It is such a sustainable and holistic practice that teaches you body awareness and how to listen to your body and what it needs everyday.
Pilates but also fitness in general became such an immediate focus for people during the pandemic. As we slowly return to our ‘normal’ lives, how can we continue to keep our mind and body active?
There are ways for us to stay active all around us, we just have to be open to movement. I like to add walks into our weekly schedules to show our members that being outside in nature and moving your bodies is also important. I also think as our lives get busier it becomes even more vital for us to remember to take time to disconnect from all the noise and reconnect with your body for however much time you can dedicate to it on the mat. I think the past few years have really taught us all to look after ourselves and maintaining a healthy body and mind is so fundamental in achieving that. Try to lower the expectation you may have on your body and fitness routine, a five-10 minute class is better than none. As long as you are prioritising time for yourself to do what makes you feel good, you are doing an amazing job.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Make mistakes… If we didn’t make mistakes how would we grow? Use them as an opportunity to grow and develop. Be curious, insightful and learn to love every part of you.