To celebrate International Women’s Day, I want to introduce you to one of my best friends, Chiara Favaretti. She continually inspires me, both with her “have-a-go” approach to business and also through her positive attitude towards maintaining good health through her work as a Pilates teacher.
I met Chiara when I attended one of her Pilates Masterclasses in Greenwich. It was a gift from my brother-in-law Alex and my first introduction to the world of Pilates. However, I only began a regular Pilates practice during the first lockdown in March 2020. At an incredibly stressful and unpredictable time, I was able to find stability and a sense of community thanks to Chiara taking the plunge and starting her very own online studio. During 2020 Classes were donation-based and that allowed me to prioritize my mental and physical health during a penny-pinching period. Over the past two years, I have enjoyed watching her business grow, whilst I too gained a few extra centimetres in height, thanks to her guidance which has improved my spinal flexibility and posture. This week I enjoyed sitting down with Chiara and having a natter over a fresh cup of Chai tea as we reflected upon our shared journey so far.
As many of you know, I am a professional opera singer, and my passion for my Art influences many of my day-to-day activities. Pilates is a great example. When I began practicing, I hoped that Pilates would help my posture and breathing and in turn improve my singing. However, I did not realize that it would enhance my life on tour as the portability of the online classes meant that I could make healthier choices when traveling and keep up with my exercise routine. An extra quirk was that I was able to practice my Italian. Chiara is from Padua in Italy, and also offers online Pilates lessons to Italian speakers. After realizing I am an opera singer, she suggested that I attend both the English and Italian classes on Mondays to improve my understanding of the language. She would repeat the routine from the English class, enabling me to identify new vocabulary by following the same instructions in Italian. This was fantastic learning experience for me and helped me improve my Italian listening skills.
Chiara’s lessons also significantly impacted on how I approach my practice in general. Previously, I would spot an area of concern and try to fix it head-on by focusing all my attention on it. In Chiara’s classes, she doesn’t try to fix an area of concern by encouraging a quick-fix, or bringing in a forceful strength to counteract it in some way. Instead, she recommends:
“I encourage my students to undergo a journey of improvement. Together we move the focus a little away from the area of concern to see the bigger picture, enabling the student to see how it affects other things (mobility, posture, strength, etc.). The student can then find a greater balance across the whole body because they have addressed everything else rather than trying to fix that particular thing and maybe create issues somewhere else.”
A great example of this process in action was my aim to improve my posture. I have a natural curve to my spine, resulting in my posture appearing to be hunched over at times. I was concerned that this would have a negative impact on my singing and my future physical health. My previous attempt to fix my posture was to purposely pull my shoulders back to straighten out the top of my spine; however, holding my body in this manner caused me discomfort in my lower back and sensations of rigidity. Chiara encouraged me to approach this goal with patience and to focus instead:
“By creating more movement in your spine, promoting more uniformed mobility across your whole body. This focus enables you to find more length and a better, more balanced posture. So rather than fixing what you thought was an issue, we looked into creating more movement and more balance across the whole body that then allows you to stand in what looks like a straighter posture but is actually a balanced, healthy, and open position that embraces the natural curves of the spine.”
I found this very empowering, and I was happily surprised to see the improvement in action while looking at my wedding photos. I remember quickly sharing a photograph with Chiara taken in profile during the ceremony. I was so pleased to see an improvement in my posture candidly captured at such a special moment in my life.
I have seen and felt the benefits that Pilates has had on my body and I have approached my Pilates training with the same commitment that I use for my singing as my body is my instrument. However, if you wanted to dip your toe in the water and explore what it is like to practise Pilates you can join Chiara in her March Matness series for only £1.00. Within the Pilates community the month of march became an opportunity to share a love of Pilates and particularly a love of the classical exercises as originally designed by Joseph Pilates worldwide:
“These sequences represent the emblematic exercises of Pilates. I like to think of them as the sun salutations of Pilates. It is the source from which all the movement comes from. My Goal this year was to dedicate this month to people who would like to give it a try without feeling the pressure of being able to do the full version. Rather than this being a moment of glory for those of us that are able to do it or have been studying it before and showing off how difficult the exercises are. My Goal is to inspire people to approach the classical work without feeling fearful and understanding that there is always something that they can do.”
Chiara has created a series of 30 or so videos, which are to be released daily over this month. This series breakdowns the classical mat routine, with a focus on accessibility. If you would like to try them out here is a link to her website and her online studio.
36 thoughts on “March Matness”
A journey of improvement – I love that.
A worthy universal goal throughout our time, whatever that may be.
Bravo to you for your Pilates work, too.
Thank you for reading my blog post. I loved reading your comment as I think it beautifully summarises what I was hoping to get across. I wish you the best of luck with your own goals. What are you working towards at the moment?
Hi Charlotte, Pretty and I spend three days a week taking care of our two year old granddaughter and her six week old sister!
The other days I try to REST while Pretty toils tirelessly in her antique empire. I’m sure I didn’t have her energy when I was 62, but then that was many moons ago.
Bless you for what your music can mean to your audiences.
Be still, your soul. Do you know the group Selah? Ask Alexa to play some of their music for you. I’m listening to them now. The world needs your help in quieting our souls especially in these uncertain times. Bless your heart.
I will take a listen Sheila thanks for the recommendation, take it easy two adventurous children are hard work for sure. Bless you and your lovely family 😘
Chiara sounds like a special person. Glad she is able to help you so much. Changing exercise routines can be life changing, and it sounds like discovering Pilates with Chiara really was in many ways for you 🙂
I have found Pilates to be challenging but worthwhile. To an outside eye, the exercises can sometimes appear to be easy, but believe me, my abdominal muscles are wriggling! It helps that I have a superb teacher in Chiara.
I can believe that from what I’ve heard. I have never tried (I did yoga for a year and got a lot out of it and may try Pilates some day.
I’m glad you got so much out of the classes, Charlotte. The language idea was genius.
I too, thought it was an enlightened idea, as I could soak up Italian vocabulary, Chiara’s accent and her sentence flow, all whilst getting my exercise in. Luckily Chiara was kindly on hand if I misunderstood my […] from my elbow ;).
😁 Important distinction
Wonderful post Charlotte. It’s great when friendships like yours and Chiara’s develop. I love that studio space in the photos.
Thank you for reading and commenting. The studio in which Chiara was practising her Pilates, is part of Plum Village a Buddhist Monastery in France that offers spiritual retreats. I love how the photographer has captured the light in the photographs.
They are wonderful images.
I love how you encompass everything you do with complete commitment, a lovely post Charlotte. 🥰😘😘
Thank you for your shining and cheerful spirit. I am who I am today, thanks to your loving support over the years.
How gracious of you to share such a personal journey. I learned more about Pilates from your experience. What a fabulous opportunity to have met the perfect teacher for you, and to have created such a reciprocal relationship of friendship and respect. I believe that both you and Chiara are richer people for it. Cheers!
I feel happy knowing that you enjoyed reading about my Pilates journey, which brought with it the gift of friendship and good health. I feel very blessed to meet such wonderful people over the years, including your fabulous self!
I am a Tai Chi practitioner, but Pilates sounds like a useful addition. I enjoyed your discussion of Pilates and what it has done for you, Charlotte. Based on what you have written here, I will look into it. Chiara’s approach makes sense to me. I am glad you have found such a wonderful teacher and friend!
Wow – Tai Chi sounds fascinating. I have seen moments of it in films and once caught a mesmerising glimpse of a group practising in Hyde Park (London). How did you become a Tai Chi practitioner?
I would definitely recommend giving it a try, I was surprised at how much I learned and the pleasure I have taken from the learning experience.
I started back in 1996 taking classes, back when I lived on the east coast. A friend was taking lessons from this particular instructor, and spoke highly of her. My one regret was not being able to take time off from work to go to China and compete with some of my fellow students. I still practice the movements, and find them helpful.
We also learned Tai Chi Swords! I still have my performance sword, as well as a practice one that is a telescoping sword, or what I call the “vacation model” sword. I brought it along on one trip to the Grand Canyon one year when Rick and I camped there. I thought I was in what seemed to be a clearing screened in by brush. Unknown to me, there was a thin area in the brush, and another campsite could see me. Here I was with the sword, practicing my moves when I looked up, noticed the hole in the screen, and the other campsite watching me with horror! They quickly packed up their belongings and hurriedly left the area. I went back and warned Rick we might be getting a visit from the Park Service Police. We never did, fortunately. 🙂
I absolutely love the story of the vacation model sword. 😂. My younger brother Thomas wanted a sword from about the age of six and my parents kept saying they’d get him one when he was an adult, sure enough on his 18th he got his own sword. I would never have though of doing Tai Chi with swords I should mention it to him.
Very nice, you are a real professional to look into every aspect to make your career better and not just your main or primary part. Every detail counts. I also like the pictures, very nice post.
I love the phrase – “Every detail counts” – as I keep progressing in my career I have found that it can be these little touches that make all the difference. My Dad compares it to an athlete who shaves their legs in order to lose 10th of a second. I am always open to trying new experiences to see how they can improve my singing and happiness.
I was doing Pilates on the ‘reformer’ but fell away during COVID as such places were closed. Now I am doing mat work stretch classes on site here, followed by a strength and balance class. Every little bit helps… You are great to pay so much attention to whole of body as it relates to your singing.
Thank you for your lovely message. I would love to try a reformer class in the future. I have heard great things about the equipment and how beneficial it can be. Your comment has inspired me to do some research! Well done for finding alternative ways to focus on your body whilst the classes weren’t available due to COVID.
A fine advocacy
Thank you for reading my blog post and for your kind comment. I enjoyed reflecting on how my Pilates journey with Chiara has affected my life for the better.
Very interesting post,Pilates must be a fabulous excercise to be able to do..
Keep up the good work Charlotte.
It’s a lovely way to make friends too.👏👏😘
I really enjoy how many variations Chiara can find in her classes. It is inspiring to see how she can adapt the movements so that they are suitable to each student’s individual needs and abilities. For example, when I had my shoulder injury, she came up with movement alternatives to join in safely and progress my recovery. I certainly would recommend you give it ago.
I may try one of her classes, although my old bones and muscles may object! I often wondered how you stayed in physical shape and now I know. So important for a singer! Thanks for the link!
My parents started taking online classes one evening a week after work with Chiara, my Dad has a problem shoulder and Mum had fallen and twisted her left ankle badly. They have both strengthened not only shoulder and ankle but their backs and strength. My Dad is amazed that such gentle exercise is so efficient and effective.
Best wishes to you Noelle,
Amazing! I will definitely check out Chiara’s sites.
My posture went downhill this last 2 years, and I need to work on it. I used to teach yoga, so I should try to get back into the stretching exercises. I bet there is a cross over with Pilates. I hurt my knees and ankles in an accident about 10 years ago, so have to be aware and careful about any exercises that involve knee/ankle rotation. Tai Chi has a lot of that in it, so I gave that up.
Thank you for this fab article on Chiara. She sounds like a great and healthy friend to have.
My mum had an accident Resa where she fell in a pothole and went over on her ankle and down onto her knee, then she had another incident of the same ankle turning over, Chiara has been doing specific exercises with her called a cherry pick to strengthen the ankle joint and other thigh and leg strengthening exercises my Mum is very pleased with the results.
Wow! That sounds great!
Cherry picking exercises makes sense. I do that with yoga stretches. I need to be more regular with everyday routine.
This is a very beautiful post you have made, it is a bit of a reminder of the synergy between the mind and body. It is great that you have a friend and mentor in Pilates in Chiara, the one thing I have found in the past few years is how important stretching is. Cheers to great health 🙂