The East’s latest taste of Western exerciseKoreans have already tested such Western exercise trends as high-impact aerobics, step exercises and spinning. But ironically, some Eastern meditation and movement philosophies that the West is now embracing aren’t as prominent here.
Brent Anderson, a founder of one of the world’s largest Pilates (pronounced “pi-LAH-teez”) organizations, is one person who expects Koreans to embrace this mental and physical fitness regimen. “Korea has a huge advantage over us in the West,” he said.
As Korea is one of the more recent additions to his 20-nation Polestar Pilates network, Mr. Anderson flew in this week to lead a symposium on the discipline.
About 50 dancers of all ages, chiropractors and physical therapists were curious enough to listen in at the Korean Ballet Academy in north Seoul.
For the last 25 to 30 years, he told the group, everything in exercise was about aesthetics, but the “crazy diets and crazy workouts” broke down people’s bodies.
“In the West, people are searching for meditation, body-mind-spirit awareness, being pliable and flexible,” Mr. Anderson said.
Mr. Anderson was studying physical therapy in San Francisco in the late 1980s, while dancing as a hobby, when one of his dance instructors told him, “Hey Brent, why don’t you try that ‘pie-laits’ stuff.”
So he went to St. Francis Hospital, which ran a Center for Dance Medicine, where he met three women who would have a profound effect on his life. One would become his partner; the other two were Selly Power, an injured dancer, and Dawnna Wayburne, another dancer.
By 1992, he would help launch Polestar Education, a Pilates-evolved curriculum for fitness and rehabilitation professionals, in California, before moving it to Miami. Ms. Power would become the director of education; Ms. Wayburne would be in charge of education in Asia.
While the mental and physical fitness regimen invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s often attracts dancers, Mr. Anderson wondered how Pilates could be applied to physical therapy.
“I started a quest to understand the whys, not just the hows,” Mr. Anderson said.
His discoveries formed the basis of the Polestar Education principles, and his two “mantras.” One: to provide a positive movement exercise without pain. The other: to impact the world through “intelligent movement.”
Today, Polestar has certified more than 1,500 Pilates devotees, with Koreans among the newest to embrace it. The newly launched Korea Pilates Association will begin certification tests in the fall. In particular, Mr. Anderson hopes to apply Pilates in Korea to rehabilitation.
by Joe Yong-hee