Meet Elisa Withers, founder of APPI (Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute) and our latest ‘Wow Woman.’
Arriving in London in 2000 Elisa started her career as a Physiotherapist in the NHS whilst completing her Pilates teacher training.
At this time, Pilates was very new in the Physiotherapy and rehabilitation area, there was no specific training for degree level health professionals and she was always being asked by her colleagues to teach Pilates to them.
This lead to Elisa and her husband, (another Physiotherapist) setting up the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute (APPI), a Pilates teacher training Insititue for Physiotherapists and other health professionals.
The teacher training courses became popular quickly and now APPI provides Pilates teacher training in 25 different countries worldwide.
They then went on to open their own Physiotherapy and Pilates clinics in Hampstead and more recently in Wimbledon.
APPI are also providers of Rehabilitation and classes at the English National Ballet and All England Lawn Tennis Club.
To be honest I don’t have an early wellness memory and I have only become aware of the concept of ‘wellness’ in the past 5 years. However, it would have to be when I started researching the idea of establishing our own staff wellness programme about 5 years ago. Each month we run a programme at our clinics for our staff where we enjoy a variety of wellness options including yoga, cooking, meditation, gardening and kite flying.What is the best ‘wellness’ tip you have ever been given?
Sthira and Sukha. Effort versus ease.What are some of your favourite ‘wellness’ discoveries?
My best ever default wellness discovery is a long, reflective morning walk or run across Hampstead Heath. My newest wellness discovery is my recent journey into Yoga and the benefits of mindfulness and meditation that it brings to me.What does ‘wellness’ mean to you?
To me, ‘wellness’ is about actively prioritising your health and happiness.
''Change what you can, surrender what you can’t.''My quote of the day - Elisa Withers
As a young girl and ballerina, it was always my passion to work as a Physiotherapist in a ballet company. After coming to London at the start of my career I was rewarded with this incredible opportunity at the English National Ballet where I worked for many years and where specially selected Physiotherapists from my company still work today.Did you ever think you would start your own business?
I never planned on starting my own business at any point. However, I can see now looking back, that in reality I was actually working really hard forming the foundations of the business without comprehending what it was leading to. Then, once APPI was officially launched as a specialist Pilates teacher training provider here in the UK, it snowballed and become very real!Why did you start ‘APPI’?
APPI was born out of the discovery once arriving in the UK from Australia, back in 2000 that there was no provider of specialist Pilates teacher training for Physiotherapists. There were several excellent Pilates teacher training schools but no one was teaching a therapeutic approach to Pilates. As Physiotherapists, we immediately recognised the need to develop therapeutic modifications of Joseph Pilates traditional method to make Pilates beneficial for everyone.What are you proudest of with APPI?
I am most proud of the fact that APPI has taught thousands of teachers around the world a method which empowers people from all walks of life, any ability and regardless of age to re-learn the powerful positive effects of movement. Confidence, empowerment and happiness are to name just a few of the benefits of the APPI method.Tell us more about your training as a ballerina and how it has helped your Pilates training.
Pilates has its foundations in dance. Joseph Pilates trained many New York dancers in his career. There is a big cross over of physicality, mindfulness, visual imagery between dance and Pilates so the Dance background helps me to instantly grasp the how and why of the movement as well as me having the faculty to practice a large amount of the repertoire comfortably.
Prevention not cure!What do you love most about Pilates and why?
I love the never-ending movement opportunities that Pilates affords. Pilates encourages creativity and when this in unlocked, possibilities are endless and the mind and body continually evolve.How do you ensure you always stay true to your core?
By practicing what you preach! I schedule early morning practice, before our five children wake, so that I start off the day being ‘true to my core’ and ‘sane in mind’.
“Be creative and confident with your aims and ideas. Then be patient as you set up and ready to be resourceful, problem solve, adapt your ideas if needed.”.What would you say to young women who want to start their own business?
I love grasping new opportunities; working hard to make them work and watching them develop over time to the benefit of our teachers and clients.What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced and how did you overcome it?
Thankfully, I don’t feel that I’ve faced major challenges. The challenges I have faced in life have actually been real blessings; the long hours to set up successful clinics, juggling this and extensive international travel when first establishing ourselves as international providers and then balancing this with five children. True blessings!Favourite Pilates pose and why?
Shoulder Bridge. There’s a joy in the feeling of ‘rolling’ your spine, bone by bone up and down from the mat. The sense of control over your body is so satisfying. Opening up through the front of the body is a much needed stretch for us all. And feeling your gluteals working to support your pelvis is a necessary reminder to use these important muscles wich become so weak I many of us due to too much sitting!Mindfulness or Meditation?
To me they are the one. Meditation to me is a mindful practice that allows me pay focused attention to myself which then transcends into my movement practices.What do you do in your downtime?
I love to practice Pilates, Yoga, run on the Hampstead Heath, explore London with our children.Where do you go to ground yourself?
To our farm in Rutland. We cycle, horse ride, grow our own veggies, walk in the countryside and camp in the back garden with the children.What are your favourite London hotspots?
For me, it’s ballet at The Royal Albert Hall, dinner in the West End and picnics in any of our gorgeous London Parks.
Anywhere in Italy!What are three things you can’t live without?
Husband, children and good health.If you could only live in one item of Asquith clothing what would it be?
Alice’s gorgeous jumpsuit – I do practically live in this one piece of clothing!