As a University of Colorado undergraduate, Peter Lakis was torn between selecting medicine or fine arts as his career aspiration.
Lakis was contending with what he described as “a constant balance in my life, which one to pursue.” So, he moved to San Francisco and decided to spend a few years building furniture for a living before making a decision.
After Lakis experienced an unexpected adjustment by a San Francisco yoga instructor, his physical therapist introduced Lakis to Pilates as rehabilitation for a lower-lumbar injury he had sustained. Not only did Lakis heal from the injury, but he became a devoted student of the classic Pilates method.
“The public perception of Pilates is in a perilous state given that Joe [Pilates] has been deceased for a while and people are changing,” said Lakis, 35, a Presidio resident who became a certified Pilates teacher in 2001.
Lakis opened Dharmaspace Pilates Center and moved to the current 3,000-square-foot space on Second Street in 2006.
“Business is doing great,” said Lakis, who employs seven full-time instructors. “It kicked my butt the first few years.
“With our guys coming back maimed from Iraq, this Pilates work is unbelievably profound with how it can give people their lives back. I didn’t serve, but I can serve by helping them return to life.”
“Return to Life” is the title of his Pilates’ book delineating his methods. Lakis frequently cites the work with his clients, including Pilates’ goal of enabling people to achieve “spontaneous vigor and zest in everything you do.”
Alan Fisk, a quad-amputee as a result of a birth defect, has benefited from Lakis’ instruction.
“As an amputee, it has been difficult to find an exercise regimen that I could do without causing too much strain on my body,” Fisk said. “Peter has been an extraordinary instructor as he has been able to adapt the various Pilates routines to my body.”
Endurance athletes also derive benefits from Lakis’ fitness coaching and he counts many swimmers and runners among his clientele.
“I notice with athletes an overdevelopment of skeletal muscular groups and an underdevelopment of the deeper supportive muscles and then a lack of awareness with how to use both for the jobs that they’re intended to do,” Lakis said.
He is conscious of the stigma that Pilates holds for some athletes.
“If I could get some of the athletes who write off Pilates as exercise for dancers and put them through the ropes of a traditional Pilates workout, I would change their minds in one hour,” he said.
One such convert was Alan Revere, who also discovered Pilates post-injury.
“Peter has an artist’s ability to visualize even what he cannot see,” Revere said. “He has a sculptor’s hands and a scientist’s curiosity. … It is easy for us to empirically verify the improvement in my flexibility, strength, balance and general physical health.”
Clearly, Lakis has uncovered in his work with Pilates the connection between the rival passions of healing and art that created the inner conflict back in his college days.
Dharmaspace Pilates Center
WHERE: 28 Second St., second floor, S.F.
PRICE: See Web site for details
INFO: (415) 495-4564, www.dharmaspace.com