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Increase your Age-ility

Ageing is commonly defined as the accumulation of diverse detrimental changes occurring in cells and tissues with advancing age, which is responsible for increased risk of disease and death. It sounds dramatic but we are mortal beings and from the day of conception the process of ageing begins. But ageing doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a decline in health and wellbeing or a decline in cognitive function.

Despite many people’s beliefs, dementia is not an inevitable part of old age. While dementia is associated with non-modifiable factors such as age and genetics, an estimated 35% of dementia cases are related to modifiable factors, in particular the amount of physical exercise a person performs.

Physical exercise is beneficial for the management of risk factors of dementia, such as: diabetes; hypertension; and obesity. Physical exercise also has a positive effect on sleep and mood. In a study done in 2019 (Spartano et al) it was found that an hour of light-intensity physical activity was associated with one year less of brain ageing, which is believed to be as a result of the decrease in inflammation and oxidative stress. Studies undertaken in 2020 (Alty et al and Law et al) showed that physical exercise increased new brain connections by making new neurons, and decreased cognitive decline.

Ageing decreases reaction time, muscle strength, coordination and balance. Exercise programs that include strength, balance and functional exercise can improve mobility in ageing. Studies have shown that high-intensity programs that include balance, strength and functional exercise of 30-60 minutes, 3 times a week, will improve the overall wellbeing of ageing individuals, and improve balance and strength in those with the early signs of dementia.

As we age the risk of falls also increases due to decreases in reaction time, muscle strength, coordination and balance. Exercise intervention that includes balance and functional training, along with strength training, assists in the prevention of falls.

The Body Refinery has developed a program called Age-ility that is focused on decreasing the effects of ageing and the risk factors of dementia while improving quality of life. Further information is available from our website, or by calling the studio.

Exercise improves immunity

We know there are many health benefits to leading an active lifestyle – one very important health benefit is that exercise enhances immune competency, particularly in older adults who are at greater risk of infection.

Exercise has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence of communicable diseases such as viral infections in addition to chronic diseases and non-communicable diseases such as cancer and chronic inflammatory disorders. Studies show improved immune surveillance to bacterial and viral antigens following bouts of exercise, in addition to the reduction/delay of ageing effects on the immune system through regular physical activity. This is great news for us at a time when we are looking for proactive ways to boost our immunity.


Scientists have discovered that the behaviour of almost all immune cell populations in the bloodstream is altered in some way after exercise. In fact, contemporary evidence emphasises that the immune system is in a heightened state of surveillance and regulation, particularly at about 1-2 hours after exercise. It appears that a specialised and systemic response occurs with mobilisation of immune cells to peripheral tissues, specifically in large numbers at mucosal surfaces such as the gut and lungs. It is thought that these immune cells identify and eradicate other cells infected with pathogens or those that have become damaged or malignant, along with the stimulation of immune cell production in the bone marrow.

Regular exercise is also championed as a means of enhancing the immune system’s competency in older adults, particularly those aged over 60 years. Studies show that people engaging in regular, moderate to vigorous exercise of at least 20 minutes, three or more times per week have a greater immunity response compared with those who do not exercise.

Additionally, there is scientific support for exercise as immunotherapy for cancer following observation of anti-tumour behaviour of immune cells after exercise.

So, make sure you keep moving regularly to improve your immunity, and if you’re when you feel the time is right, schedule in some exercise with our team of health and movement professionals at The Body Refinery. We have a range of options available to you, including online classes, 1-on-1 exercise physiology sessions, 1-on-1 physio-led clinical rehabilitation sessions, and small group clinical rehab classes that are taken by a physiotherapist. There is no better way to commit to your self-care and boost immunological health at the same time.

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 Written by Sarah Holloway, Myotherapist and Pilates Instructor

Pilates For Bone Health – Osteoporosis

bone health

While bones feel solid, the inside of the bone is actually filled with holes like honeycomb. Our bones are constantly being remodelled – old bone is removed and new bone is formed. As we age, we begin to lose more bone than we build. This can result in a condition called osteoporosis. The tiny holes within the bones get bigger, and the solid outer layer becomes thinner. In other words, our bones get less dense. This makes them more prone to fracture, even from a minor bump or fall. The most common fracture sites are the spine, wrist and hips. Fractures in the spine reduce the height of the vertebrae and can lead to a stooped or hunched posture called kyphosis, reduced mobility, pain, balance problems and increased risk of falls.

What are the symptoms?

Osteoporosis is often described as a ‘silent disease’ because there are no symptoms. Often people aren’t diagnosed or treated for osteoporosis until they sustain a fracture.

Who is at risk?

There are certain risk factors for developing osteoporosis. These include:

  • Female sex
  • Certain medical conditions and medications (e.g. thyroid problems, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Calcium and/or vitamin D deficiency
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

If you are over 50 and have any of these risk factors, speak to your doctor about having a bone density scan.

bone health

How is it treated?

Medication and lifestyle changes are the main forms of treatment for osteoporosis. Exercise is also very important. Current guidelines recommend a combination of weight-bearing exercise, resistance training and balance training. Exercise programs should be performed regularly (at least three times per week), challenging, progressive, varied and individualised to the person.


Pilates for osteoporosis.

People often overlook Pilates as an exercise option for the management of osteoporosis, probably because they are only thinking of traditional mat exercises. However, Pilates can also be performed on specialised equipment such as the Trapeze Table and Reformer. This type of equipment-based Pilates incorporates weight-bearing and impact activities which can improve bone mineral density. A recent study in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis found a significant increase in bone mineral density in the lumbar region following a clinical Pilates program.

Equipment Pilates can also help to build muscle strength by adding resistance in the form of springs. Other benefits of Pilates include correction of postural changes, reduced pain and improved mobility, balance and coordination.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or low bone density, make an initial physiotherapy appointment at the Body Refinery today. Our physiotherapists will perform an assessment and design a safe, effective and individualised clinical rehab program incorporating both Pilates informed exercises and traditional rehabilitation exercises to improve bone density, strength, posture, balance, coordination and reduce the risk of falls.


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Book today to experience the benefits of Pilates through our App or on 07 3358 3915.

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How much Pilates should I be doing each week?


Written by Susan Cottrel – Physiotherapist and Owner of The Body Refinery


This is the most common question I am asked in my business. My standard answer is “8 times a month, but it depends what else you are doing and what your goals are”.  Pilates can be done every day and I believe that you should do Pilates so you that you are better at all the activities you do in life, whether that be lifting weights, carrying your baby, lifting your grandchild, playing golf etc. I can’t sit in front of my computer doing my writing each day without having done my Pilates.

Recently, my husband had a nasty episode of back pain, and following treatment, he re-commenced his Pilates twice a week but found he wasn’t completely affecting the change he wanted to see or feel. He felt great after his session, but by the next day, the improvement wasn’t always maintained. I suggested that twice a week wasn’t sufficient to achieve the changes he wanted to see and feel. After increasing his Pilates to 3-5 times per week, he started to see the change and maintain his changes.

Simply put, if you are doing Pilates once a week, it isn’t enough to achieve the significant benefits that Pilates can provide. Sure, once a week is better than not doing any, but you won’t experience significant changes in your body, or decrease your pain; you won’t actually be getting stronger or more flexible.


I often hear that people can’t commit to twice/thrice a week because they travel for work etc. My advice is to structure your month around Pilates, especially if you are feeling the benefit and seeing the outcome. For example, if you are aiming to do Pilates at least 8 times per month, it may be best to have a Pilates session 3 times a week, so that if you are away for a few days, and/or sick and/or just have “one of those weeks” where you can’t make it to your usual session, at least you should still be getting your 8 sessions in. If you know you have a busy week or month, plan to get some extra sessions in when you can, because when you’re sitting for longer (at your desk, in a car or plane), or feeling stressed, that’s when Pilates can be most beneficial, in terms of keeping your body moving to prevent injury/pain and also just to have some time to focus on you and your health.

We want to help you do your Pilates regularly so you see and feel your goals. The Body Refinery has an app that allows you to manage and schedule your appointments (or you can use our website), to ensure you are getting your minimum 8 sessions per month. We also have an Online Pilates Studio that allows you to do a mat class in the comfort of your home, hotel room, or even in the park or at the beach!


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Book today to experience the benefits of Pilates through our App or on 07 3358 3915.

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Movements and Activity: a pathway to improve


It is generally believed that when our body hurts we should stay still and avoid any painful movements to avoid worsening the symptoms. This is true only after an acute injury so that our body can heal the damaged tissue. However, excessive rest can have an adverse effect and make things worse in patients with musculoskeletal disorders.


Movement to treat your pain/injury

Not only because the body suffers from the effects of a de-conditioning process, but also because some people may become scared of moving and lose the awareness of the motion of the affected area. So consequently we move less, get stiffer, our muscle weakens and we have secondary pain due to inactivity.

In addition, it has been shown that pain-related fear has an important role in the transition from an acute injury to chronic pain in low back patients. Some patients perceive movements or stimulus as a threat, increasing the stress/anxiety towards specific activity and as a result, creating a fear-avoidance behaviour which leads to further misuse of the body and long-term disability.

Furthermore, the pain experience can be influenced by stress, excessive attention to pain and unhelpful believes. Consequently, the pain of that initial injury has become bigger and bigger due to other factors even though the healing time of the injury has been already finished.


So how can we break down this vicious loop?

A good start is moving, recovering that lost awareness of your body and re-learning how to move adequately, improving the confidence during activities, breaking down the pain-movement association in our brain and decreasing that perceived threat.

You may think “but how if it’s hurting?” The answer is pacing, little by little with the help of health professionals to support you and reassure you through this process. You cannot win a marathon if you didn’t train it before, so after prolonged inactivity due to pain is similar, it is important to build up the strength and movement little by little, to promote the tissue adapt to the new activity, settling goals to finish your own race to get out of such loop.

At the Body Refinery, you can find physiotherapists to help manage your discomfort and start getting active in a safe way, with small movements. Start decreasing the threat of movement with progressive exercises, safe environment and reassurance to recovering progressively the normal motion of your body.

When you feel ready, Pilates is an unparalleled, whole body-conditioning program. The Body Refinery offers a variety of different Pilates classes to help build:

  • Flexibility
  • Muscle strength
  • Endurance throughout the whole body
  • Postural alignment
  • Core strength and stability
  • Healthy breathing patterns, and
  • Improved coordination

If you want to move with strength, flexibility, power, vitality and ease, join our Brisbane Pilates studio. Going on holidays? Take your Pilates Instructor with you anytime… anywhere with The Body Refinery Online’s Studio – www.thebodyrefineryonline.com


HIIT Express Reformer pilates


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To register your interest, contact us at info@thebodyrefinery.com.au or call 07 3358 3915

Pilates as a profession


The Pilates profession is currently being inundated by weekend/short courses, which teach a lot of repertoires but provide little to no understanding of pathology, physiology, anatomy, and even worse… with little to no understanding of the actual Pilates Method. This sometimes, unfairly, results in the Pilates Method being blamed for injuries, as well as leading it to be considered as an “alternative therapy”, even though there are science and evidence that supports its many benefits when it is practised correctly – and the best way to achieve this is under the guidance of fully-trained Pilates teachers.

Being a Pilates teacher is a great profession and is highly rewarding. Currently, it is an unregulated profession in Australia, meaning anyone can call themselves a Pilates instructor. In Australia, the Pilates profession has two industry bodies, the Pilates Alliance Australasia (PAA) where Susan Cottrell will present a workshop in September 2018, and the Australian Pilates Method Association (APMA).  These industry bodies set a standard for our profession, so it can be recognised by the public and the healthcare system as a legitimate therapy, and not merely a form of exercise. Currently, the minimum standard required for membership with these bodies is comprehensive training, comprising both Mat and Full Studio training.

The Body Refinery Team

The Body Refinery Team

Pilates is more than an exercise repertoire; it’s an understanding of the work of Mr Joseph Pilates, the interplay of imagery and positive movement, pathology, and experiences, along with the science of anatomy and biomechanics.

All teachers of Pilates play an important role in our industry and community as they get people moving, which is vital for our community’s wellbeing and health. However, the level of training your Pilates instructor has undertaken may determine whether your Pilates practice is an exercise routine or a comprehensive method that incorporates all the benefits for which Pilates is so renowned.

Comprehensive training also requires 270 hours of practice under the guidance of a mentor. The result of having this guidance is a confident and knowledgeable teacher who can program his or her own classes and modify an exercise in the case of injury or pathology.

Professions that you trust with your body, such as medicine, physiotherapy and optometry all have minimum standards in their profession. As a profession that is also looking after the body and health, Pilates should be no different. Ensure you are learning from a true professional who has undertaken the required training.

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Join our Pilates community and focus on your health and mind-body connection. Create your profile or book a class now!

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Make use of your physio or instructor


How your physiotherapist or Pilates instructor can assist you to achieve your goal.


Movement is a skill

We often forget that movement is a skill and that we have ‘learned’ it. Along with internal focus, external feedback is an important component of how we learn. One of the primary roles of your physio or instructor is to provide feedback. Beyond the instruction of ‘what’ to do they can often provide valuable feedback on ‘how’ to do something. An experienced physio or instructor would have accumulated hundreds if not thousands of hours studying, teaching, practising and observing movement. Why not take advantage of it?


One instructor vs. a variety of instructors

As a general rule, we recommend finding somebody that you connect with and have some consistency initially. The benefit is it allows a relationship to develop. The instructor will get a better idea of your body, movement and tendencies. You will get a deeper understanding of their teaching style and process. This helps reduce confusion while learning the foundations.

Once you have established a foundation (focusing on the principles) go experience other instructors and be open to their different perspectives and experience their different styles. You may find another favourite!

Pilates Principles


Group versus private sessions

Group settings are more economical and provide some social interaction. Private sessions allow for individual attention throughout the entire session.

Through our experience, nothing works well for ‘everybody’. In a group setting, we instruct for what works for ‘most’ people. We will try to make corrections for the individual as much as possible but by the nature of the class environment, our attention has to be divided. If you are finding you need a bit more attention a private session is a great option.


Some great times to consider working one-on-one with your physio or Pilates instructor would be:

– Pain*
– New to Pilates
– Specific goals
– Performance & technique

* The presence of pain especially if increased during Pilates needs to be discussed with your physio or pilates instructor.

At The Body Refinery, our physiotherapists or Pilates instructors are here to ‘guide’ you and help with technique. It is important that you combine the external feedback with your internal experience to get the most out of your Pilates. The more you understand your body, the more likely you will be able to apply this knowledge to activities and goals beyond the Pilates setting.


Some key ways to make good use of your physio or Pilates instructor:

– Find an instructor you connect with and have some consistency initially
– Listen to their feedback and apply it to your inward experience
– Private or small group sessions are available if more individual attention is required
– If you have a question ask!

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Join our Pilates community and focus on your health and mind-body connection. Create your profile or book a class now!

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Why Pilates is beneficial for Seniors

seniors pilates The body refinery

The Body Refinery teaches Pilates to clients of all ages – including a number of clients in their 70’s and 80’s. Our most senior client is 95!  She attends Pilates once a week and is still incredibly limber for her age. I am always amazed by how much improvement my senior clients gain in their posture, coordination, balance, strength and flexibility by attending regular Pilates sessions. I often hear people say, “I’m too old for Pilates!”, however, I can think of many reasons why Pilates is beneficial for seniors!

As Joseph Pilates said, “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. In order to achieve happiness, it is imperative to gain mastery of your body. If at the age of 30 you are stiff and out of shape, you are old. If at 60 you are supple and strong, then you are young.”



Why you should continue Pilates into your 50s and beyond:

  • Increased coordination and balance – Pilates exercises are designed to increase stability and strength in the core and the lower limbs, which positively affects balance. This will allow you to move with confidence and reduce the risk of falls and injury.
  • Low-impact and relatively light resistance – Pilates is a really gentle and safe way to exercise, without overloading or straining the joints and soft tissues. The springs provide light, even and controlled resistance.
  • Decreased joint stiffness and pain – Pilates exercises lubricate and nourish the joints and encourage a full range of motion, which leads to improved mobility and decreased joint pain. It is, therefore, safe and effective for people with painful joint conditions such as arthritis.
  • Improved flexibility – Pilates helps to improve muscle length, creating longer leaner muscles that are less prone to injury.
  • Improved posture and alignment – Pilates addresses all areas of the body, focusing on symmetry, mobility and strength. It helps to improve body awareness and encourages elongation of the spine.
  • Correct breathing – Pilates will help to improve your lung capacity and your ribs will move more freely.
  • Rehabilitation after surgery – Pilates is an excellent way to regain your strength and mobility following surgical procedures like a hip or knee replacement.
  • Assists with a variety of age-related ailments – Pilates is beneficial for people with back pain, osteoporosis, spinal stenosis, arthritis, and even Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke.

Staying active and mobile is a key component to ageing well. Our qualified physiotherapists and Pilates instructors can help you to achieve optimal function and physical well-being. You are never too old to do Pilates!

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Don’t wait! Start Pilates today! Join The Body Refinery Pilates classes and focus on your health and mind-body connection. Call our friendly admin team on 07 3358 3915 or info@thebodyrefinery.com.au

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Neck pain and Pilates: the benefits and effects on posture

Neck Pain

Neck pain is a relatively common complaint. It affects up to 70% of individuals in their lifetime. International statistics show that around 10-15% of the population has neck pain at any given time. No age group or occupation appears immune and neck pain is second only to low back pain in annual workers compensation costs in Australia. Neck pain tends to be a persistent and recurrent disorder and up to 60% of persons can expect some degree of ongoing pain for many years after their first episode. The pain intensity can range from mild to severe.

Many treatments for neck pain have been found to be ineffective for relieving acute neck pain but Pilates combined with Physiotherapy has been found to be one of the most effective treatments for acute neck pain.


There are several principles that underlie the Pilates  approach to neck pain:


  • Clinical Pilates commences early in the 
rehabilitation process, usually within the patient’s initial 
  • Pilates should not provoke neck pain
  • Pilates exercises are designed to address the specific changes 
identified in the muscle system and in sensorimotor function
  • Muscles are trained specifically and within a functional and task-specific context
  • Repetition is essential in the learning process to establish or re-establish appropriate movement and muscle control
  • Patients must understand the rationale underpinning the various components and phases of the exercise approach. Their contribution to, and compliance with, the Pilates program is critical to the learning process.

These principles are derived from the evidence of the rapidity of onset of changes in sensorimotor function, the changes in muscle activity in response to pain, the specific changes in the muscles’ properties in association with neck pain, as well as the evidence for specificity in exercise to address the often complex and various impairments that may be present in a patient’s presenting disorder.


Neck pain


The exercise program described is a staged program, which progresses through three basic phases


Stage 1:The first phase of the exercise program, as indicated, aims to activate and train the deep cervical and axioscapular muscles with precise exercises and to integrate their actions into their functional supporting role in an upright posture. Low-load endurance exercises are introduced to train the deep muscles in line with their functional supporting role. Stage 1 focuses on motor learning and specificity of exercise to address the impaired muscle function in those with neck pain.

Stage 2:The exercise program in stage 2 continues to have a focus on motor learning but also begins to add load in both the formal and functional exercises of this stage.

Stage 3: This phase focuses on strength and endurance training. This phase should be approached with some caution from both muscle control and symptom perspectives.


How we can help


An appropriate well-constructed exercise program is mandatory in the rehabilitation of patients with cervical disorders to assist optimal recovery as well as attempt to intervene into the transition to recurrent or chronic pain.

Clinical Pilates addresses all 3 stages of the rehabilitation exercises. Pilates principles focus on posture and body awareness so clients are able to go from rehab phase into maintenance using the same exercises.

The Body Refinery, offers physiotherapist who are highly trained in manual therapy as well as clinical Pilates making the environment ideal to manage clients with acute and chronic neck pain and whiplash related disorders.

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Book an appointment with a Physiotherapist today on 07 3358 3915 or at info@thebodyrefinery.com.au.

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Pilates and Low Back Pain

Pilates low back pain

Chronic Low Back Pain (LBP) is a condition that affects more than 50% of the population, with  70% of the population believed to experience an episode of LBP within their lives. Research shows that 60-80% of these patients will experience another episode of back pain within 1 year of an episode. With such a high prevalence, LBP is the second most common reason for absenteeism and for seeking medical consultation.

Through research, we now understand that after an initial onset of LBP there is a dramatic weakness, accompanied by an incorrect firing pattern in the key spinal stabiliser muscles, including the core muscles & multifidus. Importantly, without specific retraining, these muscles do not spontaneously recover. Despite the lack of pain, this ongoing weakness means the spine is not receiving sufficient support to prevent ongoing shearing forces across the disc and joints, which can result in chronic or recurrent LBP.

A common misunderstanding is that the strengthening of the superficial abdominal muscles is directly related to the deep core stabilising system. Many patients have heard of the need to perform abdominal exercises post LBP, and so begin strengthening exercises for the rectus abdominis and for the internal/external obliques. However, these strengthening exercises are not very effective in preventing LBP, compared to specific stabilising exercises involving the transversus abdominis & multifidus muscles.


Work on your core system

Studies have found that strengthening superficial muscles, despite not being stabilising muscles, does help to decrease pain and improve function after an episode of low back pain. However, the results were not as significant as those achieved by performing specific stabilising exercises of the core system. Core strengthening resulted in a 90% improvement in both reported pain and functional disability when using the McGill Questionnaire. The significant improvements with specific core training are explained by the fact that the two primary muscles, which are inhibited by LBP are re-activated to function correctly. As the multifidus has been found to atrophy after LBP, without specific training this muscle does not revert back to its pre-injury state, and therefore does not provide the stability required.

Patients who focus solely on exercising the larger superficial muscles still show improvements in pain and function. With a moderate contraction of the rectus abdominis and obliques, there is still an increase in intra-abdominal pressure which helps to alleviate compression forces on the disc. However, despite significant improvements in the strength of the superficial muscles, studies show that there was no change in activation of the deep core stabilising muscles. The increase in intra-abdominal pressure is a secondary stabilisation system and does not provide the micro segmental stabilisation that is delivered by the core stabilisers.

low back pain

Strengthening the superficial abdominal muscles certainly has its role in recovery from chronic LBP, however, it is necessary to first target the primary muscles that provide spinal segmental stability prior to global strengthening. Even without the superficial muscles, activation of the transversus abdominis and multifidus alone results in better outcomes for LBP patients. With correct management and guidance, patients with LBP who reactivate their core system in combination with their global stabilising muscles have a far better chance of preventing future episodes.


Pilates for LBP

This research clearly demonstrates the significant benefits to LBP patients that the addition of a targeted exercise program, such as Pilates, can have in retraining the deep spinal stabilisers. Pilates is designed to seamlessly progress patients into functional strengthening so that the spine is supported during everyday activities.

Can’t make it to our studio? Physiotherapist, Aga, has developed a 4-week Low Back Pain Online program in order for you to exercise everyday at home, at your own rhythm. More info on https://www.thebodyrefineryonline.com/low-back-pain-program

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Book an appointment with a Physiotherapist today by calling 07 3358 3915 or visit info@thebodyrefinery.com.au.

Can’t make it to the studio? Take your physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor with you with our 4-week online Low Back Pain program.

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