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A flexible approach to your day

Features | Published:

Lucy Stephenson meets local yoga and pilates practitioner Ashley Cummins to find out why exercise before work and in your lunch break can have huge benefits

Some people grab a sandwich and return to their desks, others do a spot of shopping, while there are those who regularly just do not have a lunch break during their working day at all.

But now one local business is aiming to encourage more people to exercise in the fresh air in their lunch breaks and before work.

Ashley Cummins, founder of Move Yoga and Pilates, has started a series of panoramic pilates sessions held on the balcony at Liberty Place, with views of the Harbour and St Helier. When the weather is warm enough, classes, which take place before work, are held outside on the balcony itself. When it isn’t, they take place inside in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows.

And Ashley says she is also increasingly holding classes for clients and corporate companies over the lunch hour.

‘Pilates is a great method of exercise to practice in the lunch hour,’ she said. ‘It consists of slow and controlled movements targeting specific muscle groups which does not tend to create too much heat in the body. So it can be the perfect lunchtime class to fit into a busy lifestyle. You don’t even need to bring another pair of shoes to work as you practice in bare feet or with socks on.’

She added: ‘Forty-minute lunchtime sessions allow enough time to get changed, to run through an entire body realignment, strengthen and mobility session encouraging good posture and resetting the spine and mind – with enough time to pick up some lunch on the way back to work.’

She also says that pilates can be beneficial beyond just a break from the office.

‘Pilates can make a big difference to you and your working day, your attitude to work, your energy and stress levels, your posture, even the relationship between you and your colleagues,’ she said.

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‘We tend to spend a lot of time sitting with bad posture. Slouching with the shoulders hunched forward, keeping the head held too high or looking down too much and compressing the lower back. The sitting position can also interfere with blood circulation in the lower body, allowing less oxygen to get to nerve and muscle cells in the back.

‘You are at higher risk for low back pain if you have bad posture, don’t exercise and are overweight. When muscular back pain occurs, heat and exercise can increase blood and oxygen to the area. Exercise can also help you to improve your posture. Try to distribute your weight evenly when seated and avoid slouching in your chair.

‘Spending time outside also improves our overall mental well-being, it elevates energy levels and mood. It can also improve memory, fight depression, anxiety and lower blood pressure. Sunlight increases serotonin levels, which makes you happier and encourages wakeful relaxation. The natural scenery can replenish depleted energy and can help to build inner confidence.’

All of Ashley’s classes are designed to suit beginners as well as those with previous experience.

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But is it yoga or pilates that you want?

‘Yoga and pilates are two different styles of movement,’ she said. ‘Both offer incredible benefits for the body and mind but many often prefer one over the other.

‘Yoga encourages flexibility and a release of tension stored in the body by linking different postures. Ultimately, this focus on the body encourages a deeper self-awareness and promotes a sense of wellbeing.

‘The thing I enjoy most about yoga is the far-reaching health benefits it provides. Often people will come to a yoga class for the physical aspects, such as wanting to gain flexibility or to be able to touch their toes. However, many return after discovering the deeper impacts of practice. Yoga can assist with mental well-being, allowing individuals to clear the mind and focus, bringing a sense of clarity.

Pilates, meanwhile, focuses on the art of controlled movements.

Ashley, who also runs classes for men, known as MOGA, as well as those for mother and baby, children and expectant mothers, said: ‘The focus of pilates is to build strength, control and endurance throughout the body. It puts emphasis on alignment and breathing in order to develop a strong core, improve co-ordination, improve balance and create good posture.

‘Like yoga, the mind-body connection focused on in pilates brings a sense of calm to the mind, because while you are focusing on the movement and placement of the body the mind is in the present moment.

‘Pilates is great because it suits people of all ages and fitness levels.’

  • Move Yoga and Pilates is based at 70 Stopford Road with indoor group classes on Tuesday for yoga and Thursday for pilates, both at 6 pm. Panoramic pilates takes place on Thursday mornings between 7.30 am and 8.15 am. Other group classes are held at various locations throughout the week with all details online at moveyogapilates.com.
Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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