Jillian Hessel's B.E.A.M. Technique™
A Unique Approach to Teaching Pilates
In 1981, Jillian Hessel was temporarily sidelined from her professional dancing career due to a back injury. During this time, Jillian was introduced to the wonders of Pilates exercise by two first-generation master teachers, Kathy Grant and Carola Trier (both students of Joseph Pilates himself). She found the regimen so rejuvenating that she was able to return to her performing career. "But I always knew I would teach Pilates full-time once my performing days were over — I had found my lifeline and my calling," says Jillian.
Jillian had arrived in Kathy Grant's Studio in such an injured state that Mrs. Grant did not allow her to perform the Classic Pilates exercises at first. Her musculature and movement habits were so severely imbalanced from years of dancing that she had to begin with Mrs. Grant's customized "warm-ups," as she called them. Once her breathing and body alignment had become more optimal, Jillian found Pilates to be the best exercise for her body. "I always like to say that Kathy got me into alignment, and Carola got me strong," she says.
Over the years, Jillian has integrated Kathy Grant's "warm-up" exercises with her own background in classical ballet, modern dance, therapeutic exercise, and yoga to create the B.E.A.M. Technique™. The letters in this acronym stand for:
BREATHE • ENERGIZE • ALIGN • MOVE
B.E.A.M is solidly rooted in the six core Principles of Pilates, but is easier to remember because of the acronym, and the sequential nature of the progression. "If you follow the B.E.A.M exercise sequence, you will find it to be the best possible way to connect mind to body and breath to motion," says Jillian. "More importantly, B.E.A.M. prepares you for the challenge of Mr. Pilates' classic exercises, both on the mat and with his specialized apparatus."
Setting the Foundation: B.E.A.M. Fundamentals
To put it another way, a successful workout must begin with the breath. As all yoga practitioners know, the breath can be a very powerful tool for quieting both the body and the mind. But it can also invigorate you! By alternating slow, deep breathing with short, percussive breaths, you can consciously raise your body's energy level. And energy is obviously something you'll need if you're going to exercise. But first you must prepare your body by getting it into alignment, as good form throughout your Pilates workout is vital. Only then, when it is time to move, will you be ready to move dynamically — with the fluidity of motion that is the hallmark of Pilates exercise.
The benefit of the B.E.A.M. Technique, especially for beginning students, is that it makes the exercises more accessible and less intimidating, since there is less for them to think about before launching into the exercise. Body alignment and economy of movement are fused with a a strong sense of breath and a focused awareness of every movement growing outward from a strong center. The muscles are lengthened and toned, and an increased range of joint motion is emphasized. Repititions are few as coordination and balance are enhanced.
Jillian's book, Pilates Basics, along with its companion DVD, Pilates for Beginners, provides a clear and practical introduction to the B.E.A.M. Fundamentals. Mastering these Fundamentals prepares students for the classic Pilates matwork and helps them tap into their "Powerhouse" — a term that Joseph Pilates used to refer to the energy center located in the lower abdomen.
But more than that, you'll find that applying your new knowledge of breath, energy, and alignment to dynamic movement is an exciting experience in and of itself, whether it's for Pilates, competitive sports, or simply a walk around the block.