My inspiring weekend with Pilates Elder, Mary Bowen

I was so excited at the prospect of attending a workshop presented by Mary Bowen, this most incredible Pilates teacher.

Mary had not only studied with Joseph Pilates and his wife Clara in their New York studio, but was also one the privileged few students, entrusted by Joe himself, to teach his beloved Contrology method. Mary has played a significant role in the story and history of Pilates and I was utterly thrilled at the opportunity to meet her.

This prestigious honour has earned Mary Bowen the title of Pilates Elde,r alongside Kathy Grant, Romana Kryzanowska and Ron Fletcher to name a few. At 87 however, Mary is the oldest Pilates Elder to still be teaching.

I had expected Mary, like most octogenarians I’ve known, to be sitting quietly, telling amusing anecdotes from her youth. Mary Bowen however, is an extraodinary lady and although the anecdotes were flee flowing, there was certainly no sitting still for this movement teacher.

Mary swung from the Pilates Cadillac with the ease and strength that a woman half her age would be proud of. A large inflatable egg shaped ball was then placed, by Mary herself , as no one else would have suggested something so unstable for her to use , onto the Cadillac. There she was able to demonstrate what almost 70 years of Pilates practice can do for your balance , strength, stability and agility.

Watching this incredible lady gave me so much hope and inspiration. In a world where by their mid thirties, the majority of professional athletes and dancers, are considered to have passed their prime, often forced to retire usually due to injury, here was Mary moving with such grace and confidence. Perhaps most importantly, feeling all the better for it. Movement is so fundamental to our physical, mental and emotional health, we need to be thinking of prolonging our movement potential for as long as we possibly can. Mary has found a way with Pilates.

If Mary could do this in her eighties then having had 4 children and being in my late 30’s didn’t seem such an obstacle and what freedom of movement and joy lay before me.

Alongside her Pilates career Mary Bowen has continued as a Jungian psychologist. A profession that she is adamant has always benefitted her teaching. Mary attributed her good working relationships to her greater knowledge in this field. The Body and mind connection was being explored and appreciated by one of Joseph Pilates proteges many years after she first entered his New York studio with a back issue.

Mary was so generous with her knowledge of the method and with her stories of the man who’s techniques we still use and benefit from today. Such a wealth of knowledge and experience and such a fabulous character. She encouraged me to make the most ludicrous noises as I performed the Seal, rocking back and forth embracing the freedom from inhibition, despite the onlook of peers and fully enjoying the movement, the breath, the unification of body and mind and the uplifting joy it brought. Thank you Mary, thank you for sharing.