In 1945 Joseph Pilates published his revolutionary fitness manifesto, Return to Life Through Contrology. The thin volume has pictures of a tanned and toned 60-year-old master demonstrating his stretching and resistance regimen in tight Burt Lancaster briefs. Though the pictures evoke a timeworn prescription for health, the ideas expressed in Pilates's essays are timeless.
Instead of subscribing to the oppressive feel-the-burn mentality that gave rise to the overbuilt American musclehead, Pilates takes a philosophical approach that incorporates the mind and spirit for a total definition of health and strength.
He argued, in the days before cellular phones and computers, that "civilization impairs physical fitness." That modern society's increased reliance on automobiles, air conditioning, and other advances further distance humans from interacting with nature, thus damaging not only the human body, but the human mind.
Almost 60 years later, you see Pilates's name everywhere -- from your local Walgreens drugstore (where you can find a Pilates exercise mat with accompanying video) to punch lines on Sex and the City. His techniques have become a trendy exercise fad discussed over cappuccinos among the hard-bodied health club crowd.
But chances are the techniques taught on the videos and in the luxury gyms reflect a superficial take on the Pilates approach. In Miami there are few (if any) instructors who have as deep a knowledge of Pilates's work as Arthur Curtis. Curtis has been teaching Pilates since 1976. In his new studio, the Hub Center for Creative Change, he and his partner, Nikki Rollason, will be showing students how to free their bodies -- and their minds -- through Pilates technique and the Feldenkrais method of movement. The sessions are by appointment only, so there are no crowded gyms and thumping music. The mat classes are limited to ten participants.
The physical work is just a starting point. As its name implies, the Hub seeks to take clients to the most central part of their being, and beyond. Students can explore the meditative and "esoteric healing" of reiki massage, tarot, and astrology with a side serving of angelic energies, channeling, and energy fields. "We do that kind of shit," Curtis quips before describing the tenets of the Hub's Primordial Sound Workshop, based on the work of Deepak Chopra.
He calls the arch of the program an exercise in ego cleaning, providing students with tools to free themselves from limiting self-perceptions of their bodies and instilling a deeper understanding of how each person is connected to the big picture of creation. Curtis admits some of the agenda may sound odd to the person aspiring toward a torso pulled out of an underwear advertising campaign. "Having a six-pack may change your physical attitude," Curtis says, "but it will not make you any more fabulous than you already are."
The Hub is registering students for a variety of classes and workshops at 4730 NE 2nd Ave. Call 305-758-7588 for information or appointments.