Joyful Exercise at Norma Jean Pilates

Hayley Thorpe of Norma Jean Pilates
Hayley Thorpe of Norma Jean Pilates

I have discovered a place so wonderful that I need to share it with you. I hate exercise. I have body issues and have always felt klutzy. I fear the big machines, and worst of all, I fear having a 20-something, tiny, buff instructor who will make me feel larger and more clumsy and uncoordinated.

I found that a wonderful answer, a short walk from my home, is Norma Jean Pilates (NJP). This Pilates studio recently moved to 52 Main Street (across from the American Hotel). Hayley Thorpe continues to outgrow each studio she opens, first in East Hampton on Newtown Lane and her second studio in Sag Harbor on Division Street. Each one has been a welcoming place. When you open the door, Norma Jean herself, a mini white poodle will make you feel completely at ease—or, if Norma Jean doesn’t, Hayley surely will.

Hayley has a BA in Advertising, Marketing and Communications from FIT. She also has senior level certification in Pilates and an amazing knowledge of human physiology. She’s beautiful, smart and sweet. She’s also a tiny, buff blonde—but she’s definitely not threatening. She exudes joy and encouragement. She wants to help women grow into their bodies rather than conforming to the media’s image of what women should look like. In order to offer other images, the studio walls hold pictures of real women’s bodies, voluptuous women from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Hayley is not just about nostalgia. She wants to help women be their best, not anyone else’s best. Besides alternative women’s images, she’s compiling a library of books on women’s healthy physical and psychological development.

At my first visit, which was a one-on-one training session, Hayley introduced me to the Cadillac, which resembles a bed with trapeze equipment and she explained that Joseph Pilates developed a method of strengthening the body’s core. During WWI he was invited to train troops but his interest was in the injured returning from the war. He developed ways to rehabilitate people who had lost use of part of their body. Her explanation put me at ease.

Because of back surgery in my teens, I was certain that I could not do certain moves. Hayley’s way of confidently leading me and telling me that she would not let me fall or hurt myself allowed me to move in ways I could have never risked trying before.

Hayley’s secret weapon is that she concludes each session with Shavasna relaxation. Sometimes that includes a head or back massage or a spritz with flower-scented water. Beyond that she leaves each person with a message to bolster self-esteem, and to set a positive tone for the rest of the day.

When I returned from vacation recently, Hayley introduced me to one of her instructors, who, in one hour, told me more about my body than any doctor had in my life. She explained how my back surgeries and wearing a body cast for 18 months changed my posture and my balance.

During that hour she helped me by employing words I could understand. For example, in order to keep my arms in a place that helped me stand more erect, she said I should pretend to hold a clutch bag under each arm. She had me do tiny movements, which seemed very small and without exertion. The next day I found myself getting acquainted with muscles I had never, to my knowledge, worked.

Now I almost skip down the street on my twice-weekly appointment days. I’m working up to a group class. In the mean time, I have lost some weight, I’m finding my core, standing straighter and taller, moving better and looking good, all
thanks to NJP.

Norma Jean Pilates, 52 Main Street, Sag Harbor. Call 631-808-3131 or visit

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