Essex Pilates & Wellness Meets Your Body Wherever You Are, No Matter Who You Are!

by RONA MANN/photos by Stephanie Sittnick

“After two major surgeries, one of which was a total knee replacement, you served both as my Pilates instructor and my rehabilitation guru.  No other instructor with whom I have worked could begin to match your skill set.”   ….. I am so grateful to you for loving what you do!”               Diana Harbison, MD, P.C.

High praise, yes?  But that just seems to be the way it goes at Essex Pilates, tucked away behind the post office on Nott Street, right in the heart of beautiful little Essex village.  And the praise is not solicited; it just keeps coming in because owner Celeste Etlinger and her staff have made what they teach, what they do, and what they believe, not a job, but a way of life.

The story begins with Celeste Etlinger’s heart.  Although healthy, her heart was not happy during the 13 years she spent working in the corporate world.  During that time she had also been involved in several accidents, leaving her with back trauma and arthritis. One day while working out on the treadmill with a friend who had similar problems, the friend told Celeste about an exercise system that was supposed to be good for the back.  It was called Pilates. Etlinger was not familiar with the term, so she did some research and wound up taking her first Pilates class in Mystic.  It only took that one class for Celeste to fall in love with the work Pilates entailed.  Now it was time to do something for her heart.

After much soul-searching, Etlinger realized that working in the corporate world neither made her heart happy nor fulfilled her soul.  “Maybe I ought to each Pilates,” she shared with her husband, Shawn.  His support was instant…”Go do it,” he concurred.

Like a diver entering the water with one perfect motion, Celeste dove into her new pursuit, training at Power Pilates in New York City and subsequently earning her certification to teach.  At first she worked in the southeastern Connecticut area for about a year at various gyms, teaching basic classes; then in 2006 she was hired to instruct at Essex Pilates.  Seven years later Celeste and Shawn purchased the studio, changing the name to Essex Pilates and Wellness.

“I originally started with Essex Pilates and Wellness to help me recover from the fatigue and weakness associated with my breast cancer treatments.  A year later I broke my leg.  As soon as I received my orthopedic surgeon’s permission, I went back to Essex Pilates and Wellness to get back in shape again to work with my horses. Due in large part to my Pilates and Yoga practice, my doctor told me how pleased he was at how well I healed and recovered my range of motion.”

                                                                                                … Patricia Daragan, Westbrook, CT

Contrary to popular belief, Pilates is not some newfangled exercise gimmick that just came along a few years ago.  Its roots actually go back to World War I when Joseph Pilates, formerly a sickly child and now a circus performer and boxer, decided to devote his adult life to learning as much as he could about how to get and keep a strong and healthy body. Thrown into an internment camp during the war, Pilates committed himself to working with other detainees in the camp and later patients in hospitals in an effort to rehabilitate them to a far better quality of life. Working with bedsprings pulled from mattresses to strengthen bedridden patients and make them stronger, Pilates developed a new method of exercise centered on strengthening the core to thus strengthen the overall body and make it more flexible.  Originally called contrology Pilates was a comprehensive integration of body, mind, and spirit…and it worked!

“If at the age of 30 you are stiff and out of shape, you are old.  If at 60 you are supple and strong, then you are young.”

                                                                                              …Joseph Pilates

While Pilates centers on strengthening the core of the body, Celeste is quick to point out that “the core is not just abdominals.  It’s those muscles closest to the pelvis and spine.”

Through both individual and group classes Essex Pilates & Wellness is effective for every body at every age.  “We can modify and challenge anyone through mindful movement,” Etlinger says.  “It is mentally challenging, cued to breathing, purposeful movements, and very specific.  It works on the principle of maximum benefits from minimal reps, so you are not going to be doing 100 sit ups; just 8 or 10.”

Had surgery?  Pilates is the gentlest exercise to the body, yet still challenging and

restorative; with a doctor’s permission there is no reason why you cannot use Pilates as a rehabilitative method for getting back to everyday living and good health. While Pilates classes are offered in many health clubs and gyms, there are a whole host of benefits to coming to a studio like Essex Pilates & Wellness, Etlinger points out. “Classes are very small with ongoing one to one attention. The classroom time is not the instructors time to work out.”  Therefore the instructors at Etlinger’s studio spend their time walking from student to student, making sure each exercise is being performed correctly and suggesting modifications for those who may have a physical challenge or are not able to execute a particular move.  Best of all, classes are FUN!  “Exercise is hard, so we making sure everyone’s laughing a lot and having a good time, which is also restorative to both body and soul.”

In addition to Pilates classes on all levels, Essex Pilates & Wellness offers yoga, TRX classes, and a new Back Care class designed for those with chronic back pain.  Students  learn how to utilize the small stabilizing muscles of their spine, giving more emphasis to pelvic stability.  There are no “cookie-cutter” classes here; every client is an individual regardless of their level of expertise or injury.

“For me and my husband, we are now pain free, flexible, strong in our core, have a great sense of well being, and feel and look 10 years younger!”

                                                                                                Mithi Govil, M.D.

All instructors at Essex Pilates & Wellness are STOTT trained, equipped with the skills to assess every body and design a personalized Pilates program that is safe and effective.  STOTT PILATES is a certifying company acknowledged by exercise professionals worldwide as the gold standard for adhering to the classic methods established by Joseph Pilates, yet adapting them to each individual with a contemporary approach.

For the best workout of your life with no danger of hurting your body, but added benefits of strengthening it and making you feel wonderful, you’ve got to try Pilates!  But try it with the people who know it best …who want you to feel wonderful, healthy, and strong.  Because just like Celeste Etlinger, everyone should have a happy heart.                                   

“If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?”

                                                                                                  …Celeste Etlinger

Essex Pilates & Wellness, 2 Nott Lane, Essex

(860) 767-5027