Branded Content, Health & Fitness

[Material World x Breathe Pilates] 30-Days Pilates Challenge – Matthew Fam

If a session of pilates leaves your legs wobbling by the end of its duration, try doing consecutive sessions in 30 days. Sounds crazy? Not quite. Breathe Pilates’ 30-Days Pilates Challenge is perfect for everyone of all fitness levels committed to a healthier lifestyle.

If there’s one workout you must get involved in, it’s this. Taking place in August 2014, the 30-Days Pilates Challenge provides first-timers an opportunity to commit to a fitness regime, while allowing seasoned practitioners to hone their practice. And we’ve got the lo-down on how manageable undertaking this challenge can be:

What’s so good about pilates?

It involves a contraption that skeptics may confuse for a medieval torture device. But you’d be surprised at the bevy of health benefits ranging from weight loss, increasing one’s muscle tone, to recovering from sports injuries! Its an all-in-one workout that’s part strengthening, part rehabilitating.

20130707_B6555175What kinds of exercises can I expect from the 30-Days Pilates Challenge?

There are three types of exercise you can expect to do during this challenge: reformer, tower, and mat exercises. And none of these involve impossible contortions, rest assured.

“Reformer and tower exercises make use of different parts of the reformer, a bed-like structure with a series of pulleys and springs. On the other hand, mat work involves the usage of simpler equipment such as therabands or free weights on mats to challenge the body,” shares Ru Shin, participant of last year’s 30-Days Pilates Challenge.

The focus of these sessions rotates throughout the week, so all your muscle groups get an equal chance at a workout. “We would be assigned different instructors during the challenge. They would alternate their focus between abdominal and spinal articulation, arms and legs, and cardiovascular activity.” Suffice to say, these 4 weeks will have fitness regimens specially tailor-planned for you.

Can I join the 30-Days Pilates Challenge if I have zero experience?

If being able to touch your toes feels like winning the Olympics gold for gymnastics, don’t give up your pilates-practicing ambitions just yet! This programme is suited for people of various fitness levels. “I was a total beginner!”, exclaimed Ru Shin of her experience.

Be it those recovering from an injury, disciplined gym users, or people whose idea of exercise is their daily walk to the refrigerator, this challenge is built for anyone along the fitness spectrum. “One of the great things about the challenge is that it suits nearly everyone- young (the youngest student was 14 years old and came with her dad!) and old.”

The small group setting ensures that trainers give you a more personalised coaching.

The small group setting ensures that trainers give you a more personalised coaching.

Will I be able to cope with the intensity of 30 days?

Relax. The trainers will not expect you to wrangle yourself into a pretzel. “The sessions increased in intensity as the weeks progressed, so by week 4, exercises were significantly more advanced than week 1,” says Ru Shin. Its gradual intensification means that you’ll be well accustomed to the basics before moving on to intermediate workouts.

At the same time, the challenge would not consist of superficial poses that one could easily replicate without the trainers. You will be breaking out a sweat. “After some of the sessions, my arms and legs were shaking like jelly. I even ached in places I never knew had muscles! It wasn’t smooth sailing. I had recently given birth at that time and wasn’t exercising regularly before starting the challenge. But after the first few days, I started to get the hang of it.”

Some participants of last year's 30-Days Pilates Challenge and their trainer.

Some participants of last year’s 30-Days Pilates Challenge and their trainer.

What’s different about this pilates challenge?

This is not the same as attending a pilates gym for 30 consecutive days. Its comfortable group setting allows you to ease into the rigour of workouts without feeling self-conscious. And you get individual attention from the trainers too, so you won’t be lost while awkwardly yanking random pulleys looking totally ridiculous.

“The group was just right- there were 5 of us- which enabled the trainer to pay attention to each student. The trainers were all very good. They demonstrated the exercises before letting us commence. Moreover, they would take the time to check that every student had proper postural alignment during the exercises!”

On top of that, Breathe Pilates’ emphasis on a holistic lifestyle transformation is underscored with an option for healthy cold-pressed juices you can enjoy after workout sessions.

How will I be able to commit to these 30 days in light of hectic work schedules?

Sure, it’s one thing to maintain discipline in a fitness regime, but how does that stand when busy work schedules get thrown into the mix? Here is Ru Shin’s tip: “I signed up for the challenge weeks in advance and was able to plan my schedule. I would start work earlier just to make sure I would be able to make it for the sessions on time. I also tried to push business trips just before or after the 30 days. I really wanted to do something about my fitness so I made it a priority to attend every single session. No excuses.”

Ru Shin and her daughter.

Ru Shin and her daughter.

What improvements can I expect after the 30-Days Pilates Challenge?

You don’t even need to wait 30 days for visible benefits from this challenge. “Even within the first week, I noticed improvements in my posture. As the weeks went by, I became stronger and more toned; my back was hurting less and I had higher energy levels throughout the day.  Most amazingly, a shoulder injury that I was nursing bothered me less. I was well on my way to recovery!”, says Ru Shin.

Yes. A fitter, healthier you is definitely within reach.


The 30-Day Pilates Programme lasts from 11 August to 5 September 2014, Mondays to Saturdays. Register now for an Early Bird Special of $650 (usual price $680)! Daily Juice option, $140, includes 3 bottles of 250ml cold-pressed juice provided for 30 days.

Breathe Pilates is located at #09-33 Novena Medical Center, 10 Sinaran Drive (8 participants); and #02-05/06/07 Tides, 217 East Coast Road (10 participants). For more information or to make an appointment, call 9835 5683, email, or visit

Branded Content, Health & Fitness, Wellbeing

[Material World x Breathe Pilates] Nipped In The Butt – Tan Lili

Okay, first of all, the error in the headline is intentional; former sub-editor Lili knows the word should be “bud”, not “butt”. So why did she choose to paint such a horrifying picture of getting bitten in the backside?And what does that have to do with Pilates? Read on.

Ever since I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease six months ago, I’ve been living with lower back pain. It isn’t as serious as it sounds, really. On most days, the pain is bearable, if not negligible. But when the pain flares up because of something I did – which would make me wonder, belatedly, about my masochistic tendencies – it really hurts.

My doctor suggested I go for physiotherapy but, alas, my bank account doesn’t agree. I was also rather sceptical about how effective physiotherapy would be, what with the minimal movement involved. Or so I thought.

During my private Clinical Pilates session at Breathe Pilates last week, I had my first taste of what physiotherapy entails. My friendly physiotherapist goes by the name of Jon, who’s also an accredited rehab trainer and corrective exercise specialist. The session kicked off with Jon asking me questions about my back condition, then he had me do some easy stretches and bends while he analysed my movement, from which he gathered my upper back muscles were stiff and that I relied heavily on my lower back.

Next, Jon got me to lie down on the Cadillac, which is this monstrosity of a Pilates machine:


After some prodding and more bending, he managed to pinpoint the source of my lower back pain. Turns out, my back condition is a result of my very weak right gluteus medius. Yes, my butt muscles. To prove his theory, Jon made me do some basic tests, all of which showed the rigidity of my right gluteus medius.

Some simple bends to analyse my range of motions.

Some simple bends to analyse my range of motions.

Now that we’ve isolated the source of my problem, we moved on to the therapy. Using the resistance band on the Cadillac, I did a series of stretch exercises on my right leg. The tightness I felt while stretching was uncomfortable but still tolerable.

Breathe Pilates 3

And then came the last exercise: I pulled my right knee towards my chest, and Jon applied pressure on my leg to further loosen up my hip muscles. I dare say I have a high pain threshold, but the moment he did that, I nearly cried. Don’t expect Jon to take pity on you, because even when I was wheezing and whining, he pressed down even harder. By the time that was over, I was a perspiring, trembling mess.

Next, Jon moved my right leg again. Where it was inflexible a while ago, my right leg had a markedly wider range of motion this time around. He also had me do the same basic stretches and bends that I did at the beginning. Before, when I did the backward bend, Jon noticed I relied solely on my lower back muscles to do the work. After the therapy, however, I engaged my upper back muscles as well, which lifted the strain off my lower back. Colour me impressed!

The session ended with Jon giving me some homework – I have to regularly do three simple moves that help loosen up my hip.

One of the moves I have to regularly do at home.

One of the moves I have to regularly do at home.

With their team of healthcare professionals, like Jon, and their all-rounded approach to health and wellness, they look into your underlying medical conditions before coming up with an appropriate movement therapy that best suits your needs. After just one session, I experienced first-hand the effectiveness of clinical Pilates – though I truly wanted to cry at one point. But as they say, no pain, no gain!

Classes, from $31 each, are on a one-to-one basis and up to five in one group. Breathe Pilates is located at #09-33 Novena Medical Center, 10 Sinaran Drive; and #02-05/06/07 Tides, 217 East Coast Road. For more information or to make an appointment, call 9835 5683, email, or visit

Breathe Pilates worked with Material World for this post for a review of Breathe Pilates. All opinions are author’s own. 

Branded Content, Health & Fitness

[Material World x Breathe Pilates] At Full Stretch – Tan Lili

About one month ago, after a week of near-crippling lower back pain that often jolted me awake in the middle of the night, I went to see a doctor. I found out I have degenerative disc disease (DDD) – a condition in which at least one of the intervertebral discs of the spinal column degenerates – and was told not to do long-distance running for a while. Given my strange obsession with running events, my medical diagnosis clearly didn’t sit well with me.

But first, DDD isn’t as serious as it sounds; as we age, accumulated wear and tear on the spine from daily stresses and injuries will eventually lead to this condition, which affects about 85 percent of people aged 50 and above. One tell-tale sign of DDD is chronic lower back pain that sometimes radiates to the hips and worsens after long periods of sitting or standing. Others include chronic neck pain, headaches and vertigo. For some people diagnosed with this age-related disease, they don’t even experience any related symptoms.

Except I’m not 50, and I’m experiencing all kinds of lower back and neck aches. Besides physiotherapy, which is the most recommended treatment for DDD, my doctor also advised doing exercises like Pilates to help strengthen my core muscles. So, when Material World was introduced to Breathe Pilates, I thought the timing couldn’t be any better.

Unlike most Pilates studios, Breathe Pilates offers more than just Pilates; they specialise in clinical Pilates with a focus on rehabilitation and prevention of injuries, and work with healthcare professionals like orthopaedic and sports doctors, chiropractors and physiotherapists. You’ll get a customised programme that caters to your health and body needs, so you reap maximum benefits during your sessions.

Since I was new to Pilates, I tried the beginner’s class called Reform and Be Released. To be entirely honest, before my session started, I thought I’d get bored and restless after a while – I’ve always preferred fast-paced cardio to strength-training workouts.

Boy, was I mistaken.

It started relatively simple. Soon Kuen, my Pilates teacher for the day, first taught me the proper breathing techniques and helped me understand the natural positions of my body. Then came the use of the reformer, a Pilates machine that looks all sorts of intimidating. Halfway through the first exercise, my arms started trembling; five minutes later, I was already breaking out a sweat!

Cue trembling arms and a bruised ego.

Cue trembling arms and a bruised ego.

"How does she make it look so easy?" My look of disbelief says everything.

“How does she make it look so easy?” My look of disbelief says everything.

It was incredibly hard to stabilise the movement using only my core muscles while remembering to breathe properly and keeping my body position neutral, as Soon Kuen pointed out my tendency to engage my shoulders and arms. Some exercises, especially the one where I had to press my thighs against the shoulder rests and push forth using only my gluteal (aka butt) muscles, I could barely move the board past an inch.

Trust me, pushing the board closer towards your arms using your gluteal muscles isn't as simple as it looks.

Trust me, pushing the board closer towards your arms using your gluteal muscles isn’t as simple as it looks.

After about 40 minutes on the reformer, I was introduced to the Pilates chair. This time around, I had to do a series of spine stretches.

Stretching, I can do.

Stretching, I can do.


By the time my session was over, my body felt like it had just been pulled in all directions – and I mean it in a good way! I left the studio feeling more refreshed as well. Deborah, who was there with me, even noted I walked taller and with a spring in my step! What surprised me most was that two days after my session, my arms and legs were still aching from the workout.

Of course, my lower back pain didn’t magically disappear after one session, and I still have plenty to work on my body positioning and movement. But with the clinical approach of Breathe Pilates, I’m hopeful that I’d be able to reap long-term benefits with more sessions. (I know where my ang pow money is going to this year!)

Classes, from $31 each, are on a one-to-one basis and up to five in one group. Breathe Pilates is located at #09-33 Novena Medical Center, 10 Sinaran Drive; and #02-05/06/07 Tides, 217 East Coast Road. For more information or to make an appointment, call 9835 5683, email, or visit

Breathe Pilates worked with Material World for this post for a review of Breathe Pilates. All opinions are author’s own.