SJ Somatic Pilates Southampton

My Story

In the late 1990s, I had started my first serious job working for the Civil Service Southampton Hampshire, when I was involved in a car accident that left me with what I thought was mild whiplash. At the time I didn’t think it was serious and just carried on with life. However, the days turned into weeks and I found moving my neck was painful. I went to the doctor who examined my neck and diagnosed some soft tissue tightness that would get better in a couple of weeks and prescribed some painkillers – that didn’t happen.

I started to experience regular headaches on one side of my head (felt like a woodpecker hammering inside my head), I found my speech, concentration and thinking process was affected and I was constantly tired. I regularly went back to the doctors’ and was sent for X-rays only to be told that everything was normal. I gave up on the doctors’ and turned to complementary treatments in my desperation to get well, thinking that the solution laid there. You name it, I tried it and I did achieve some temporary relief, but the symptoms kept returning.

I have always been interested in health and wellness and Pilates had exploded on the scene at that time and I thought this might help me to get well. I was working part-time in the same job when I applied and was accepted by Alan Herdman to do the one-year comprehensive studio training course which I followed with the  Polestar mat course. This allowed me to set up a small business teaching classes to groups, private individuals and to business employees. I practised regularly and felt more in control of my symptoms, although they didn’t completely disappear. But I felt that something fundamental was missing from my practice but I didn’t know what it was.

Then I came across a book called ‘Making Connections’ by Peggy Hackney, on the experiential approach to movement, that was an Aha moment! and I knew this was the missing link of movement I had been searching for. I contacted her and found out that she was coming to Edinburgh to teach a course that I attended for 2 years that changed my teaching and made me realise that real change didn’t come from external learning/exercises but from connecting internally to yourself.

I decided to deepen my knowledge further and came across The Feldenkrais Method ( I know you are thinking, how do you pronounce it and what it is?). It’s pronounced: FELL-DEN-KRISE. But this was the answer I had been searching for. The Feldenkrais Method works by learning new and more effective ways of moving through awareness, sensing, feeling and intention. This may be hard to accept, but by doing less and not pushing yourself to the limit your movement profoundly improves. And the great news is, you are not judged or in competition with anyone else, it’s about connecting to you!

In 2016 I was accepted on the 4 years Feldenkrais London Training. To be honest, I found the training tough on many levels both personally and within the group. But it has been transformative in feeling better about myself and how I can work with others. This will be my life path to help others to learn to move well to have a healthier body and mind – BE LIMITLESS!

The Feldenkrais Method


Shirley has a very clear and serene voice, which is easy to listen to when I am laid out on the floor! Most of the time I am able to understand and follow the verbal instructions, but I don’t feel intimidated or afraid to ask if I am not sure. She gives us each individual time and help if we need it. I like the fact the class is only for a few- up to 6. It’s more relaxing and intimate. She starts and finishes on time, but we also have a short friendly chat and laugh. I always go home feeling relaxed and better than when I came. I enjoy the exercises she sets us which stretch our minds into being able to do the class ( if that makes sense)


What I love about the class is that Shirley is welcoming and approachable. I love her enthusiasm for the topic and her knowledge and that she goes to courses to update her skill. I like that the classes are small and so we can get to know each other and allows Shirley to be able to follow what each person is doing and assist. I like that the class is friendly but focused.


The class is small and relaxed with different exercises each week. Over the years Shirley has modified the class to adapt new techniques she has learnt. The movements can be hard although an onlooker may think differently because we seem to be doing very little!


I like Shirley’s relaxed manner and hands-on approach during the session. The classes are small and different each week and it is easy to ask questions if I am unsure about the sequences.


I have attended Somatic Pilates classes run by Shirley for several years. I have participated in different classes in different locations for a large number of years and Shirley’s classes are somewhat different.
In each class, Shirley guides students to undertake exercises which she often designs to meet the particular needs of her students. These movements are done slowly and in a mindful way so that students learn to listen to their own bodies and therefore only move in ways that are truly beneficial. Close levels of supervision are given so that students do achieve the desired outcome in a safe manner. But it is a world away from following a set routine demonstrated at the front by an instructor.
I always left the class feeling that both my body and mind had been stretched and relaxed.
I would strongly recommend these classes.


I started Somatic Pilates classes 6 years ago with Shirley, not really knowing what to expect or what it was all about. With Shirley, you get a full-body workout, which will help to tone and lengthen the body to keep it strong. Shirley is a very thoughtful and caring teacher always ready to give help and support to her group. I highly recommend her class.


I would highly recommend Shirley to anyone wishing to try Somatic Pilates. She has small numbers in her classes which enables her to assist each class member with the exercises. Home practice is encouraged but not forced down your throat! Over the course of sessions the exercises become gradually more challenging but there are always a variety of options so that difficulty level can be tailored to the individual participant. Shirley is adept at balancing the different needs of each group member within her courses and seeks regular feedback on the exercises. Her approach is very mindful, teaching kindness to one’s body and helping to develop awareness of the body through movement. Her approach guides participants to gradually strengthen their bodies whilst developing flexibility and awareness. This has all sorts of helpful implications for looking after oneself on a day to day basis! I, like some of the other members of the class, became aware of parts of my body that I had neglected and / or that were out of balance. Shirley’s gentle approach and detailed knowledge of anatomy from her training and her own practice are evident during her classes and underline her competence to teach Pilates.


I was very pleased to find a local Pilates teacher and very impressed by the information asked for in writing about my health before I could go along for my first class. I found the classes very helpful and not at all intimidating and whilst there were clearly different levels of people present Shirley gave us all equal care and attention. I enjoyed the classes and began to find my body could do more than I thought it could through gently following the exercises. Shirley talked us through the lesson. It is clear how much Shirley knows about Somatic Pilates and the benefits and for those reasons she is an excellent teacher.


I have been to Shirley’s Somatic Pilates classes for the last couple of years and in that time have not only enjoyed the company enthusiastic, motivated and knowledgeable and I definitely feel that the combination of exercise, movement, and breathwork have improved my general posture and awareness of the body and muscles (ones I did not know I had).


Shirley’s Somatic Pilates classes have helped me feel more in touch with my body and become more aware of how I move and breathe and how the two are connected. Combining gentle and more “intensive” exercises and stretches and taking particular care of individual problem areas I think I have worked & loosened parts of my body I didn’t know existed! Some of the exercises have also been great as relaxing/de-stressing tools.


I have attended Shirley’s Somatic Pilates classes for several years and enjoy them immensely. I have found that I am more aware of my body and movement since joining the classes and I have now more movement in areas which had previously been “locked”.
Shirley is an inspirational tutor and I always leave the sessions feeling so much better than when I arrived