The first time Hee Ra Yoo came to America, she remembers being shocked while watching TV and consistently hearing “every 10 seconds a new product coming, and you have to buy and you have to buy NOW.”
She is all but used to America’s aggressive advertising now, but recalls thinking to herself, “What in the world is this?”
However, there is one thing Yoo has not only become used to while in America, but also fallen in love with: Pilates.
Yoo first tried the form of exercise after a knee injury. From then on, she fell in love with it and became a Pilates instructor.
Yoo has danced with the Korean National Ballet, the Canberra Dance Theatre in Australia and numerous other companies. She was also a guest dancer with the Kirov Ballet Company in Russia and has coached the Australian and Korean Olympic gymnastics teams. In 2009, Yoo founded Yoo and Dancers, a New York modern dance company.
Yoo has been teaching Pilates for 11 years and enjoys seeing “the progress and change in clients.”
She teaches two to three classes a day at the Turner Community Center, through Chautauqua Health and Fitness.
“(Pilates) crosses lots of spectrums; it’s good for the football player and the ballerina,” said Meg Pickard, Chautauqua’s director of recreation. “It can be modified to address the aging adult population or injuries that have been sustained.”
The benefits of Pilates are numerous.
“Pilates helps with posture and (helps to) control your body better,” Yoo said. “You sleep better and feel energized afterward.”
The feeling after a Pilates workout can be very sore or very pleasant, Pickard said.
“You can feel wonderful after a Pilates session, like you received a full body massage,” she said. “That’s unique, you can’t get that from going into weight room.”
After a Pilates workout, Yoo said she takes pleasures in taking the stairs.
“I feel energized and I need more and more to climb,” she said.
She also feels like a scene in the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” when the actors are flying and climbing on top of bamboo trees while fighting.
“When you’re really in shape, you feel like you can do it,” Yoo said. “That is my fantasy, (Pilates) is an uplifting feeling. I’m fully energized and ready to do anything.”
Yoo couldn’t imagine her life without Pilates because “it would feel like losing something in life.”
A lot of men don’t try Pilates because they think it’s for women, Yoo said, which isn’t true.
“Women can start (Pilates) easier, but men can gain more,” Yoo said. “Many men are stiff, and Pilates gives them lot of flexibility.”
Yoo returns to Chautauqua every year because she feels “good energy and spirit” from Chautauquans. She thinks Chautauqua is in her “DNA,” and that makes her want to come back and keep teaching.
“Pilates isn’t to gain big muscles,” Yoo said. “Pilates is to help understand your body and bring balance into your life. Everyone can benefit from Pilates.”