‘It makes us feel good’: Black-owned Pilates studio launches

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Diversity is celebrated at Pilates Club Toronto On a Tuesday night in November, Sanko Bell is striding alongside a few hundred other women in a cramped studio in…

'It makes us feel good': Black-owned Pilates studio launches

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Diversity is celebrated at Pilates Club Toronto

On a Tuesday night in November, Sanko Bell is striding alongside a few hundred other women in a cramped studio in west Toronto.

Holding a kettlebell made with the elastic of goatskin, the boot-maker from Blackburn opts for enhanced resistance exercises to strengthen her triceps and biceps.

“The kettlebell is really empowering,” she says, “as it creates an absolutely natural form of resistance.”

A year and a half ago, Sanko Bell started Pilates Club Toronto, the country’s first Black-owned Pilates studio. It is a place for wellness and empowerment for every woman, she says.

“Classes are always inclusive, we do everything we can to make women feel loved and protected.”

Aims

Sanko Bell trained as a Blacksmith at the Carrickfergus Forge, but took up Pilates after a match-fixing scandal hit the sport.

“I’m currently pursuing a PhD in psychology, which I’ve spent a lot of time researching, talking to women of different ages and races,” she says.

“There are a lot of women who work really hard at their profession but, because they have certain particular needs and needs don’t have those at the office, or that they aren’t looked at as a partner, or they aren’t recognised.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Pilates can be used to prevent menstrual cramps or improve mobility after a heavy workout

Sanko Bell says she is talking to colleagues about forming their own business, but is also looking to work with other establishments.

Pilates can help women stay young, stronger and more mobile after a big session. It can also reduce menstrual cramps, and improve mobility following a heavy workout.

However, Sanko Bell says the core of the training is for it to be positive.

“You work on a Pilates Mat and it’s a solid foundation – where you move during your workout is what counts. And a woman’s Pilates Mat will determine the way she moves through her workout.”

A spokesperson for the International Pilates Association (IPA) confirmed that there are many PNI schools around the world that cater for people of different races and cultures, including inclusive ones like Pilates Club Toronto.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption “Pilates is very much a movement for uplifting people and this is the core of the workout”: Sanko Bell

And regardless of race or culture, Sanko Bell says, “Pilates is very much a movement for uplifting people and this is the core of the workout.”

Bridging the gap

A free workshop in April, hosted by a group called Women Building Hearts and Minds, aims to do the same thing in London.

Lynda Bentley, the group’s founder, says that following a 2016 London University Centre for Women’s Health report on the problem of “gender bias”, one of her priorities was to bridge the gap between the physical and mental health of women.

“We want to make sure that no matter what route women take they can get to the best place possible.”

Bentley says she would like to see more activity taking place from the office to home to complement the restorative Powerclasses available to her clientele.

The venue for the event is a gym, where Bentley personally gives training sessions as well as meet-ups for women. However, she stresses the importance of gender equality when choosing spaces that serve women of colour.

“We look for gyms that embrace and value diversity, which is important to us. Gender is such a big part of everyone’s lives.”

Leave a Comment