My inspiring weekend with Pilates Elder Mary Bowen

If unlike me you’re not a total Pilates nerd, then you probably haven’t heard of Mary Bowen. You won’t know the significant role she has played in the story of Pilates and probably won’t understand how excited and utterly thrilled I was to go and meet her.

Joseph Pilates had many clients during his prolific career, but he had few students whom he entrusted to go on to teach his beloved method though and Mary Bowen was on of the select few.

This prestigious honour has earned her the title of Pilates elder alongside Kathy Grant, Romana, 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 extrodinary lady however and although the anecdotes were fee flowing, the sitting still - well not so much. She is a movement teacher after all.

If you’ve not seen a Cadillac, the best way to describe it would be a raised bench with a metal fourposter bed type structure above it. Mary swung from this piece equipment with the ease grace and strength that any woman half her age would be proud of. A large inflatable egg shaped ball was then placed ( by Mary herself no - one else would have dared she attempt it ) onto the Cadillac where she was able to demonstrate what almost 70 years of Pilates practice can do for your balance , strength and stability.

Watching this incredible human gave me so much hope and aspiration, in a world where by their mid thirties most professional athletes have passed their best, forced to retire usually through injury, here was Mary swinging with such ease and feeling all the better for it!

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 lay before me!

Alongside her Pilates career Mary Bowen has continued as a Jungian psychologist, a profession that she was adamant had always benefitted her teaching and attributed good working relationships to her greater knowledge in this field.