by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer
On a winding path, a mop bucket at sea played an integral role in the recent opening of a new Pilates studio in the Village.
Owner Bruce Manuel, who graduated from the University of the South in 1980 with a degree in English literature, spent 20 years in the Navy before joining the Department of Defense to work in Internet technology. A nagging back injury and a recommendation from a Veterans Administration nurse turned him to the Pilates method about seven years ago.
“I truly feel thankful to have found Pilates because it has greatly improved my quality of life,” he said. “I am stronger, better able to manage my bouts with lower back pain when they occur, less dependent on pain medication and better able to prevent re-injuring my back. It has been a lot of work, but worth it.”
This year, he went back to the VA hospital and an MRI revealed a previous bulge in his L5-S1 vertebrae was gone, the result of providing the right stability and removing pressure on the disc through Pilates.
Because of how the exercise method changed his life, Manuel wanted to train others so he earned his teaching certifications from Body Arts and Science International and the Pilates Method Alliance. He opened Sewanee Pilates in mid-March across from the Sewanee Post Office.
“I’m just real excited; it’s something that I wanted to do for a long time,” he said.
“I enjoy teaching people and I enjoy being my own boss.”
Manuel’s back injury, which led to this path, was the result of a bad-lifting technique early in his Navy career. At sea aboard the USS Raleigh, he wrenched his back picking up a large mop bucket filled with water. Years later, when he was training for a half-marathon, his left foot went numb and doctors discovered the bulge in his vertebrae.
A native of Houston, Texas, Manuel lived in the Denver area prior to retiring and moving to Sewanee last fall. He said he was tired of the traffic and stress that comes from living in a big city. But while in Denver, he started to build his business, training people of various ages and abilities, including a Broncos football player and an elderly man who had polio as a child. Anyone can benefit from the exercise method, Manuel said.
Joseph Pilates, a German gymnast, boxer and trainer, developed what was then called “Contrology,” after WWI. The method is designed to increase range of motion, flexibility and core strength. A handful of other benefits include improving postural alignment, balance and coordination, increasing circulation, reducing stress and muscle tension, and decreasing back and joint pain.
Manuel’s studio is stocked with Pilates equipment, including the reformer combo, a modern version of Joseph Pilates signature piece of equipment.
“My equipment allows me to create an individualized program for people,” he said. “I can accommodate people who have mobility issues.”
The equipment and exercises allow a person to stabilize themselves and develop a mind-body connection, he added.
“That translates into functional fitness for the body because if you’re working around the house, lifting something, working in the garden, have a physical job or are sitting at a desk, that sense of where your body is at in space and maintaining proper body alignment is very important,” he said. “Pilates helps you develop that sense and develop that body awareness, that’s why it’s so good for so many people.”
Manuel is planning a ribbon cutting for Sewanee Pilates the first week in May to coincide with Pilates Day on Saturday, May 6. He is currently offering an introductory rate, which includes four one-hour sessions for $250. The sessions are individual or in very small groups. Private individual sessions are $32.50 for a half-hour or $60 for a full hour, with discounts for session packages. Call (303) 815-7159 for an appointment.
Manuel also teaches group Pilates mat classes on Tuesdays at the University Wellness Center. Public classes are 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. and cost $12 for a drop-in session or five sessions for $50. In addition, he teaches a class for Sewanee students from 7 to 8 p.m. Call (931) 598-1325 for more information.