How Pilates Can Transform Your Body & Mind


Leah Simmons is our kind of super woman – she’s a qualified pilates teacher, fitness instructor, yoga lover, DJ and mum. Her philosophy is simple, if you work hard, you get results. She’s just launched her own program called Body by Leah Simmons and we are lucky enough to be featuring her on the blog today. Read on to find out what Pilates is all about from one of the most well-known names in the industry!


Me: I’m a Pilates teacher..

Person: Oh.. so you teach yoga..

Me: Errr……. I teach Pilates.

Person: Oh. But that’s like yoga, right?



I have this conversation (or a slightly less cynical version of it), pretty much every week. Being a Pilates teacher who also LOVES yoga I often get confused for being both. For the record, I am NOT a yoga teacher… But it did get me thinking about the perception of Pilates… which in turn raised the question, “Do people who DON’T practice Pilates, actually know what it is?”


Let’s get the record straight. Yoga is as similar to Pilates as boxing is to running. Yes you are working your muscles and the two exercises may even complement each other (there are even specific exercises within each method that look the same… Up-Stretch and Downward Dog anyone??) but that’s where the similarities end. As the Bhagavad Gita puts it.. “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” *


The Pilates Method was derived less from a spiritual, and more from a rehabilitation standpoint. Developed in the 1920’s by Joseph Pilates, (who had suffered from various ailments as a child so came up with a series of body-strengthening Matwork exercises to overcome his physical limitations) it was essentially used as a way to rehab injured, bedridden World War I internees. By attaching springs to their hospital beds to use as a form of resistance he could essentially strengthen their bodies whilst they were lying down – and voila, the Universal Reformer was born. (For a more detailed article on Joseph Pilates and the Origins of Pilates click here)

joseph_pilates2 (1) 

Pilates has evolved a great deal since it’s inception but at it’s core (no pun intended), Pilates revolves around 6 exercise principles: Concentration, Control, Centring, Precision, Flowing Movement and Breathing. Each exercise that Joseph Pilates designed is governed by these principles and as you begin to master the exercises you start to understand how they all interact with each other. Your posture improves, you are more flexible and of course your core strength dramatically increases. Your muscles become more sculpted and you move with an ease that is attributed to increased spinal strength.


So what is “core” strength? How is it different to a six-pack and why is it even important???


True, everyone wants to have a defined tummy but let me tell you, I have had men in my classes with washboard abs that couldn’t get through half the core exercises that some of the women twice their age could. “Abs” doesn’t necessarily equal “Strong”. Let’s look at it this way. Imagine a tree. Big, thick, strong-looking trunk from the outside with loads of branches radiating off the top of it. Now imagine that tree was hollow. Nothing holding it up from the inside. No internal support. It looks strong, but it wouldn’t take much to actually push it over and the whole thing would come crashing down. Your body is much like a tree. It needs to be strong from the inside out to support your “branches” (or limbs). True core strength comes from strengthening the tiny muscles in and around your spine and working outwards.


Pilates focuses on developing core strength as well as internal support and stability around your joints, which, in turn, makes exercising safer and more effective. Every exercise in Pilates is what is called a “functional movement”.. meaning that the movements mirror what you would be doing in every day life. And a by-product of this is a more lean and sculpted-looking body. It is the perfect complement to other training methods as well – everyone from pro surfers and pro-skaters to professional football players and olympic athletes, even military personnel, all incorporate some form of Pilates into their daily training regimes.


Pilates is for everyone, at any fitness level. My classes had a range of men and women from 8 years to 80 years in them and every exercise can be progressed or regressed to suit the client. It is low-impact and easy on joints but can also be ramped up with dynamic movements that utilise the whole body as resistance. It is perfect for people who are coming back from an injury or joint reconstruction, great for women getting back into exercise post-pregnancy or used simply to increase flexibility and strength. My body literally changed after taking up Pilates. So much so that I became an instructor. And 10 years on I am still loving it.


Follow Leah on Instagram @bodybyleahsimmons and check out her website at


* Quote taken from Yoga Australia






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Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My  copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time.  My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.

With kindest regards Samantha

I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.

When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.

I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.


Hey Jessica!
I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again

- Jacinta

I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!


Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.

– Sophie

Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!


I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).

– Helene

I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud

Michelle Curtis

My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.