Business owner Irina Scherbo knows a lot about how the human body works. She started gymnastics in Ukraine when she was 5. By 16, she had won her first world championship.
She received a degree in physical education and sports medicine in Ukraine and became a certified Pilates instructor at UNLV.
In 2010, Scherbo opened Pilates by Irina, 6625 W. Sahara Ave., to help people understand the importance of taking care of their bodies and working through injuries without relying on medication.
“It’s a mind and body connection,” Scherbo said. “Pilates is from the inside out. People really recognize themselves internally.”
Pilates has health benefits different from yoga and weightlifting, according to Scherbo. She said the exercise is low-impact and improves flexibility, muscle and core strength, posture and balance.
“It’s about controlling your own body and your own health,” said instructor Galina Geissendoerfer. “You have to think about it so you can understand your own body and why it works a certain way. We’re not just moving around with the weights. We are analyzing the movement. Without thinking about the movements, you’re not going to do it correctly.”
To Scherbo, Pilates is an art form. She said it’s not about the quantity but the quality of the movements.
“After 10 sessions, you become to know who you are,” she said. “After 20, you see the difference, and after 30, you have a totally new body.”
Pilates can also help prevent surgeries and the need of medication by healing injuries and building healthy muscle.
According to Geissendoerfer, she’s had clients quit using pain medication after building their strength using Pilates.
“Pain relievers are for one day,” she said. “Pilates shows you a variety of exercises to correct your injuries for good.”
Although there are many benefits, the only way to truly understand Pilates is by trying it, Scherbo said.
“It’s almost like being in love for the first time,” she said. “When someone talks about it, you’re like, ‘Yeah, OK.’ But once you feel it, it’s like, ‘Wow, I can’t even think.’ ”
According to instructor Maia Tabakova, the hardest part of the exercise is staying motivated.
“You need someone next to you to tell you what to do and how to do it better,” Tabakova said. “Once (clients come in the studio), we’re the ones that are going to motivate them and push them. They kind of have no choice but to work their hardest.”
People of all ages and fitness levels can participate in Pilates. According to Scherbo, her clients range from 12 to 86 and live active and sedentary lifestyles.
As a gymnast in Ukraine, Scherbo said she won competitions because she was naturally talented.
“At each competition, even though I would be goofing around during the workout, I would win,” she said. “It was so easy for me. I was very flexible and speedy. My energy was unbelievable.”
Scherbo moved to Las Vegas in 1997 and started a gymnastics school for children with her ex-husband Vitaly, a former Olympic gold medalist. After her divorce, she decided to open her own Pilates studio.
“I had periods of times with the economy where I thought, ‘You know what? I’m done,’ ” Scherbo said. “But because of love and people who support me, I made it.”
Originally from Bulgaria, Tabakova also became a gymnast as a child.
She participated in a number of world championships and took home a silver medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Tabakova moved to the United States in 1997 and spent eight years dancing for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. In 2007, she joined Cirque du Soleil and began performing in “Zumanity” as a silk aerialist.
In November 2007, Tabakova fell during a performance and was rushed to the hospital mid-show. She had metal rods inserted into her lower back but claims Pilates is what nursed her back to health.
“I’m still performing (with the show) as a dancer, but I have to work really hard,” Tabakova said. “Pilates is what keeps me going.”
Tabakova said she became a certified Pilates instructor three years after the accident to help others overcome their injuries.
“Once I retire from dancing and performing,” she said, “I would love to teach Pilates in a studio full time.”
Geissendoerfer grew up in Moscow. She was introduced to a circus studio as a teenager by a friend and kept it a secret from her mother.
“When (my mother) found out, she made a big scandal,” Geissendoerfer said. “She said the circus was not a profession and told me I must go to the university.”
After two years of college, Geissendoerfer quit school to become a dancer. She toured many countries, including the United States in 1996.
“New York is where I was introduced to Pilates,” Geissendoerfer said. “It was weird because they would go behind closed doors (for Pilates) and come out smiling after. I became curious and started learning about Pilates.”
In 2000, Geissendoerfer returned to Moscow to teach at a jazz dance school.
“I was teaching kids, and I thought they needed to know more,” she said. “So, I started teaching them Pilates and about their bodies.”
Geissendoerfer moved to New York City in 2002 to teach Pilates and complete her personal trainer certification. She moved to Las Vegas in 2009 and currently works with the physical therapy department of Cirque du Soleil.
“You are working against aging, gravity and stress,” Geissendoerfer said. “Pilates brings you back to your center with healthy emotions so you can go through life without stress.”
Pilates by Irina offers reformer packages starting at $30 per class, semiprivate sessions at $45 and private sessions at $70. Introductory and holiday packages are available. Sessions are usually one hour.
In addition to Pilates, yoga, reiki and massage therapy sessions are available.
The studio is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday by appointment only.
For more information, visit pilatesbyirina.com or call 702-629-5100.
Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0403.