US-trained Arathi Sundaresan brings classical pilates to Chennai, with a studio in Mylapore
It’s not often that an infomercial on television leads someone down a new career path. But for Arathi Sundaresan, owner of Chennai’s newest Pilates centre, some late-night couch surfing during her 2003 Christmas break kick-started a new passion. “I was studying for my masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Oregon State University in the US when I saw an ad for Mari Winsor’s Pilates DVDs. It piqued my curiosity and I ordered it. Soon I started getting compliments about how my body had changed and how toned it looked,” she reminisces.
Addicted to fitness
Through her marriage (in 2006) and her job (at Analog Devices, a well-known chip design company in New Jersey), Sundaresan kept up with Pilates, which she claims had become an addiction. She took up advanced classes at the New York Pilates Studio—which teaches the pure form of Pilates based on Joseph Pilates’ teachings—and also joined its Teacher Certification Programme. “It involved 700 hours of training and it took me over a year and a half to complete because I had to juggle work and studies,” says Sundaresan. But she persisted, and followed it up with a year and a half of teaching—accommodating her students after work.
The struggle was worth it, though. “After years of sitting behind a computer, I was yearning to do something that involved interacting with people,” she says. Meanwhile, nebulous plans of relocating to India were in the air. With a baby on the way, she and her husband decided to come back for good. For Sundaresan that meant bidding goodbye to chip designing and starting what she’s always wanted to do: “have a job that pays me for being physically fit!”
First on the block
“We moved back in December 2012 and I brought along all my equipment. But it took me a year to set up my studio,” says the 33-year-old, who is yet to finalise a name for her two-month-old studio in Mylapore. Her biggest competition could be Leap Wellness Studio, one of the city’s premiere fitness studios. According to Sundaresan, her brand of classical pilates is very different from the more contemporary style offered at Leap. “Mine is the first classical Pilates class in Chennai. Unlike contemporary methods, which have modified spinal positioning and introduced other variations, the classical brand (which works with the philosophy of a ‘flat’ spine) is more rigid when it comes to the sequences of exercises. It is also very customisable,” she says.
At present Sundaresan does one-on-one sessions, which allows her to focus on her clients individually. “At the most, I’ll take on two people at a time. For now, the studio is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays—from 8 am to 7 pm,” says Sundaresan, who is also working part-time as a physics teacher at Akshar Arbol International School until she finds her ‘studio legs’.
Cost: Rs 1,500 per session. Packages of six and 12 sessions are also available. Details: 8754543839
—Surya Praphulla Kumar