Heather Thomas Shalabi became a Pilates devotee 15 years ago
She opened Flex Pilates and Yoga Studio in January 2005
Heather Thomas Shalabi teaches yoga and Pilates and founded her own studios where she recruits the best teachers in Hong Kong from very different parts of the world. For Shalabi, staying fit is not - only - a matter of aesthetics, but also a mental attitude, a way to live well and to stay connected with your body and soul.
“One thing we can be sure of: the body never lies”, she says, stylishly sitting at the table of Cuore Private Kitchen, next to one of his two Flex Pilates and Yoga Studio in Wong Chuk Hang (the other is on Central's Wyndham street). “It constantly tells you what it needs to be optimal, yet most of us ignore the sensible narrative, tuning in only when a crisis arrives. Once we start tuning into the inner voice of the body, we sharpen our instincts and respond as nature intends - with lifestyle and dietary adjustments”.
Heather began studying ballet at a young age and took it very seriously until she was 17. “I later discovered yoga, and regularly practiced during my "corporate" years....but I have been a movement lover all my life! Movement was always calling out to me. When I first moved to Hong Kong in 2001, 16 years ago, I became a Pilates devotee, and soon after the birth of my daughter in 2002, I completed my instructor certification I fully certified as a Pilates and 200 HR YRT yoga instructor. I never looked back!!
People come to my studio Flex for all types of reasons: to become stronger or more flexible, for rehab, pre-/post-natal conditioning, cardiovascular health, postural work... the list goes on. We have classes for all levels, from beginners to advanced practitioners, and people can start with private lessons or group classes. Once people start to feel better in their bodies through exercise, the lifestyle changes quickly follow. People start to make subtle shifts in their diet and daily routines, which manifest big changes; the body knows what it needs and once you start giving it the nutrition and movement if craves, it will self-direct’.
What is your relationship with food?
I think guilt-free eating is best. When we feel bad about what we eat (and therefore ourselves), it becomes a downward spiral. I have a few simple rules around eating: input and output have to match. If you're going to have a couch potato day, eat less. If you're exercising a lot and running around, eat more and enjoy!! Next, don't mix starch (pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, etc.) and meat. If you eat meat, only eat vegetables with it; likewise, starch should only be eaten with vegetables. Mixing starch and meat slows digestion and causes bloating. Third, eat everything in moderation and rotate food choices. Of course, eating organic is important, but understanding the food source is also critical, as is thinking about the global carbon footprint.
You recently took a holiday trip in the south of Italy (an area I know very well), where you can eat well and much. How did you handle all that food?[D1]
Oh yes, in Puglia! A magical place! I was so impressed by the beauty and the diversity of the region. I was fortunate enough to visit Matera, Lecce, and areas along the coast (Polignano a Mare and Masseria Torre Maizza Hotel, near Savelletri). One of my favorite days was spent on a lovely sailing boat travelling the coast (we set off near Otranto). I even got to practice yoga on board, which was heaven!! We also visited Giardini di Pomona, a very special organic farm outside of Alberobello, where we met a beautiful couple who cultivate many varities of plants (including figs, lavender, and all manner of fruits and vegetables). We had a superb lunch at the farm and toured the gorgeous property. You know, in Puglia, it’s impossible to NOT to eat well, and, of course, I loved the food. Each bite was superb. I've never had better mussels – the regional ones from Taranto were fabulous. I ate pasta for lunch and a parcel of burrata cheese for breakfast every day....and I lost weight! Amazing how well the body takes dairy and wheat when it's not genetically modified, all organic and fresh, and, of course, cooked with love and eaten guilt-free – yes, this really does make a difference in how we metabolise!