Every sport has a body-type. Basketball and volleyball players benefit from physical attributes, while wrestlers and swimmers can isolate workouts to enhance specific muscle groups. In turn, every athlete is a bit off balance. For Israeli-born Pilates instructor, Tehila Marks, the aim is to get her clients back in balance—which, like all other aspects of being in shape, is hard to get into and easy to fall out of.
Balance is why Marks got into Pilates in the first place. Born in Jerusalem, Marks dreamt of becoming a professional ballet dancer from a young age. She relished in body movements and peak performance.
“My father would drive me an hour each way three times a week, so I could train at a revered ballet studio. That continued until political conflict closed the road,” Marks says. She was left with the desire to move, but no outlet.
When compulsory military service came calling, the young woman completed basic training with ease. She donned the uniform and saluted the brass, electing to teach at an immigrant camp to fulfill her service to the state. After a two-year stint, she entered Tel-Aviv University to pursue a degree in Art History, but she would need to pay for her studies by working full-time. She secured a position in the human resources department of an industrial company and was immediately charged with creating a wellness program for the employees and their families.
“I enrolled in a Pilates class to check out what it was all about,” Marks says. The aughts saw a spike of interest in Pilates, which was born from the ‘80s and the ‘90s fitness booms. She immediately connected with the body movements, harkening back to her days as a young ballet dancer, and enrolled in Pilates instructor certification classes that same day. School and work continued, but she invested most of her energy in gaining Pilates pedigree.
Pilates is the physical fitness system developed by Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer who referred to his workout as “Contrology,” because as he saw it, the regimen was about control over strength, flexibility and stamina. He opened a few studios in New York in the 1930s and spent decades training teachers who would disperse throughout the United States and Canada to promulgate Pilates. Balance is one of the founding tenets of a Pilates workout. “The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power,” the fitness system’s namesake once said.
Today, Marks owns a 1,200-foot studio, Tehila’s Pilates, in Riverside. Opened four years ago in conjunction with her husband, a massage therapist by trade, the studio serves as an opportunity for the Marks to help the community find balance. Her practice attracts novices and experts, amateur and professional athletes. For Marks, it’s about having a unified body and mind.
“Pilates is about preventative body care and maintenance of the body. It is not specifically to treat pain, it’s about treating the whole body and working to get the body into balance,” Marks says. “What happens is that chronic pain disappears when you activate muscles groups to compliment instead of work against (painful) areas of the body.”
She muses that while Pilates has been labeled as a possible cure for lower back pain, the benefits of practicing Pilates are about re-aligning the spine and the neck. “We work on balancing out the day to day posture of the body, which is neck rolled down looking at a phone or neck jutting forward looking at a screen.”
“With athletes, it is more about body awareness to where he or she is,” Marks says. She works with several Jacksonville Jaguars to help in both recovery from injury and maintenance of the body once healed. “Football players are usually out of balance,” she says. “Some have very thick, strong necks and huge quadriceps, but need to work on balancing that with a strong core.”
“Athletes use their bodies and undo progress every time they perform because that is what the sport asks of them,” Marks says. “There is always work to do on the body. What was accomplished today, will be the area to work on tomorrow.”
This feature story originally appeared in Void Magazine, Vol. 9, Issue 5, The Sports Issue under the title “Balancing the Body.”