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Fitness sparks friendship at free Pilates class

A free weekly women-only Pilates class at Shire Salvos Miranda nurtures participants’ body, mind and soul.


A newly established Salvos fitness group in southern Sydney is meeting more than just physical health needs.


Salvation Army workers Moira Guthrie (Community Services Coordinator) and Melissa Fowler (Doorways Case Worker) started the weekly Pilates-based group at the Shire Salvos’ food relief and assistance centre at Miranda.


“Melissa Fowler and I saw a need to offer a safe space and some self-care for local women, and so began our first women’s only Pilates class,” Moira said.


“Women who can’t afford classes like Pilates (which can cost up to $30 per session) consider it a luxury, and it is at the bottom of their needs list when it comes to trying to make ends meet.

Moira Guthrie is the Community Services Coordinator for Shire Salvos Miranda.

“Shire Salvos’ strength is partnering with other like-minded organisations in the area. While working closely with Orana Women’s Health Centre, we were able to secure a Pilates instructor who volunteers her time.”


Women are referred by local community and caseworkers, and bookings are essential.


The class is offered on Wednesdays when the centre is only open for appointments, so the Pilates area is a private, safe space. 


“One of the most prevalent issues in this area is family violence,” said Moira. “But it’s not often talked about. Women are mostly in caring roles, so they put themselves last and offering this consistent opportunity for them where they can give themselves self-care (at no cost) and the ability to find support with other like-minded women is wonderful.”


One woman, who booked to attend the Pilates classes when invited by a friend, says it’s been wonderful: “I lost my little dog last year, and I walked with my dog twice a day, so I wasn’t walking anymore. It makes you feel good, and it gets you out in the community and meeting people, which is good and healthy.”

A fitness class in full swing at the Miranda Salvos centre in southern Sydney.

She said living alone in a small government housing unit can get lonely. Having the Pilates class to go to every week brightens her day.


Moira and Melissa say some of the most powerful moments of the new initiative have happened during coffee and chat time after class. “We sit around and have coffee and cake, and they can meet other like-minded women, and we can connect them to other services if they open up about things that are going on in their lives,” said Moira.


Melissa said one participant commented to her about the progress and improvement she had seen in both her physical and mental health since beginning the weekly class: “The Pilates class is creating an opportunity to look after the biopsychosocial needs of women in the community. It has quickly become a valued and key connection point for women in this area.”


The class is about nurturing body, mind and soul. And while The Salvation Army is often associated with financial, housing and other practical support measures, its mission pillars of Caring for People, Building Healthy Communities, Working for Justice and Creating Faith Pathways are more wholistic – which is why initiatives like this are so important.




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