Health

Inner strength

Inner strength

Pilates is in Mbombela’s Hayley Stylianou’s blood. She has adored it ever since she accompanied her mother to a session, and fell in love with the strength training and discipline behind this core-strengthening physical fitness system.

Hayley was born in Zimbabwe, and moved to South Africa when she was three, and Mbombela 14 years ago. A single mom to Alexandra (13) and Christopher (12), Hayley is now in her happy place. She co-owns Studio On Core with business partner and fellow Pilates instructor Megan Leslie, which turned two on August 3. Hayley loves to spend her time with her children, especially in the bush, which she and her family love.

She was involved in a car accident at the age of 22, which left her with a fractured pelvis in two places and a fractured pubic bone as well as a persistent neck injury as a result of whiplash. Her biweekly visits to the physiotherapist ended with her starting Pilates as she became stronger and pain-free. She found a passion for this lifestyle and set off on a path to become a qualified instructor.

By 2008 she had certified herself as a Stott Pilates mat-work instructor and started teaching, and by 2010 she was the first fully certified instructor in Mpumalanga. Working alongside Megan she found someone with a similar passion and in 2014 they decided to branch off on their own and began a partnership. Initially, they worked from a small studio at Hayley’s home, and within a year they were ready to open their new one.

Megan suffers from an autoimmune disease, and could never compete in sport to the degree she would have liked, and so ended up doing Pilates, which is less impact, and which she loved. “It fits so perfectly into your lifestyle,” she says.


“You don’t have to plan excessively around it or change anything, which is one of the reasons why I love it. Another is that you don’t need to do anything else.” Both Hayley and Megan would love to see the studio grow, and a move towards a more holistic as well as medical vibe within the centre would be ideal, especially considering how closely their work relates to that of chiropractors, physiotherapists, neurosurgeons and occupational therapists.

“Pilates interlinks in so many ways with these disciplines,” says Hayley. “The principle behind Pilates is correcting posture and initiating core strength.” To become completely pain-free, and at the same time avoid operations, is the objective of all instructors. When strengthening from the ankle up we are able to ensure stability, flexibility and a strong core, engaging deep abdominal muscles and those to the spine, thus enabling a healthier, stronger body.

“Rehabilitation is important, and Pilates plays a huge role in this, once again working closely with physiotherapists and chiropractors. The difference is that their treatment is temporary, whereas Pilates is a lifelong habit, a natural and progressive way of introducing a routine that will benefit the client for life,” says Hayley.
It aims to promote flexibility, muscle tone, and getting the spine to move three-dimensionally. By developing control and endurance in the body it puts emphasis on breathing, core strength and alignment, assisting in the improvement in coordination and balance.

There are five basic Pilates tenets: breathing, ribcage placement, pelvic placement, scapula stability, and head and cervical placement. It is also beneficial for older patients who suffer from Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
“Bearing in mind that when they come to us they are at their peak, and while we cannot reverse the Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, we can help them to manage it, such as how to get up if they fall,” smiles Megan.
“Pilates is also hugely beneficial when it comes to prenatal work, as it assists the body to return to its pre-pregnant state. It’s never too late to start Pilates and there isn’t a modification to an exercise Studio On Core can’t assist clients with to ensure optimal training.”

Hayley and Megan were among the first of around 10 instructors in South Africa certified in Zenga mat-work. Stott Pilates is Canadian-based, and most of the studio’s equipment has been imported from there. “ Also, the qualification has to be updated annually. “There are constantly new techniques and methods being developed, and we need to attend workshops and courses to keep us abreast of new trends,” says Hayley.

The equipment includes mats, foam rollers, large and small mobility balls, and the V2 Max machine converts into a reformer, working on different spring tensions to suit specific body types and attitudes.
There is a fair number of male clients at Studio On Core. Golfers and cyclists are among those who benefit from Pilates.

“Golf, squash and tennis are one-dimensional sports, and cyclists, particularly here in the Lowveld, do a fair amount of off-roading and fall off their bicycles quite often,” Hayley laughs. Also, many men don’t take care of themselves after an injury, and Pilates puts the balance back. The same is true for athletes, but the point of Pilates is not only to help after injury, but also to enhance performance and core strength.

Hayley and Megan have started introducing workshops for equestrian athletes. They focus on the muscles and group areas most commonly used by a rider. Their group classes cater for a maximum of eight at a time, and age is no limit. There are special discounts for pensioners and one-on-one sessions are available.

“Every client who walks through our doors brings different of challenges. Working with them to be more pain-free and mobile is a very humbling and satisfying experience for me,” says Hayley.

Get in touch
Contact Hayley on 082-453-7804

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