Body repair and movement expert Ivana Daniell has a novel technique for motivating and engaging her clients: She likens their physique to a car, more specifically "a beautiful Formula 1 racing car". It's all about visualisation. And because she is Italian, she likes to relate to a Ferrari. "Our body is the most perfect vehicle that we were born with," she says.
It certainly sounds appealing, and once you start to think about it, it actually makes good sense. "Not many people are interested in discussing muscles and anatomy,” observes Ivana, whose devotees include royalty and rock stars. "Most of my clients do not want to hear that at the beginning, so when I compare our body to a gorgeous car, I see an immediate interest and a big smile on their faces."
Most of us, however, have parked our Ferraris in a pit stop, where they are left to rust, according to Ivana, whose warm, enthusiastic manner immediately draws you in and has you conjuring up images of racing car/body wrecks piled high on the side of the track.
And this is where she comes in. Carrying the analogy further, Ivana helps you unlock the key to begin driving your body more efficiently again. “We have lost that natural connection, that muscle intelligence, that good posture support we are born with,” she says. “It is necessary to understand your body and most important of all you need to re-connect with it.”
As simple and straight forward as this may sound, Ivana, who is in her 50s but looks at least a decade younger with her sensational figure and tumbling auburn tresses, has spent more than 20 years honing her technique, first in London and more recently in Singapore. A former ballerina, she set out on her quest to create the perfect posture and body shape after suffering a chronic injury, which marked the end of her dancing career and led to severe back pain following the birth of her first child.
She graduated in movement at London’s prestigious Laban Centre and studied post-rehab Pilates and the Gyrotonic Method (a series of circular and fluid exercises based on the principles of yoga, dance, tai chi and swimming) before creating her bespoke body service “Life in Movement”. This essentially consists of a series of especially tailored exercise programmes based on lifestyle, body type, medical history and efficiency of movement, and developed after a detailed posture analysis.
At this point, you may be wondering why you haven’t heard of her before. Why aren’t there “Life in Movement” clinics across the country? The answer is two-fold. Firstly, Ivana followed her then husband, an American banker to Singapore, where she opened her first Pilates studio in 1998 and later, an exercise rehabilitation studio at the world renowned Camden Medical Centre in 2000 and became that country’s best kept secret, treating royalty and rock stars alike, including Britain’s very own Sting. “I became Mrs Pilates in South East Asia,” she laughs.
Secondly, her high-profile clientele, which includes the Duke of York, requires her to be extra discreet. While she charmingly declines to discuss Prince Andrew’s treatment, it is widely known that she helped him to prepare for his charity descent in September of London’s glass-sheathed Shard, western Europe’s tallest building. She also treats his ex-wife, Sarah, the Duchess of York. So impressed is the Duchess that she has written a glowing testimonial on Ivana’s website: “Ivana is a unique and vibrant lady who enthuses, inspires and delivers the beautiful body that is your birthright. Ivana is golden”.
Another fan is former Strictly Come Dancing star and fellow Italian Nancy Dell’Olio. “She has a fabulous figure, and an innate natural elegance,”praises Ivana. “She came to me during Strictly and we became good friends.”
Of Ivana, Nancy says: “Ivana was spot on with her posture analysis and she was invaluable in preparing me for the Strictly tour.”
The good news for the rest of us is that Ivana is now based back in the UK after years of commuting back and forth from Singapore. She has established her own tiny studio in the West End, full of impressive high tech rehab equipment, including a complicated looking Gyrotonic machine. She has also just joined Tim Evans, the Queen’s doctor, at his clinic at the new women-only private members health club, Grace Belgravia.
While Ivana acknowledges that her dedicated one-to-one bespoke service does not come cheap (she charges £200 for a two-hour postural analysis with further sessions starting from £75 per hour with her team and up to £150 with Ivana, herself), she is determined to spread the word. “I want to educate people. That is my passion,” she declares.
She has written a book, Life in Movement: A Manual for a Contemporary Body, which she is hoping to publish soon, and freely dispenses tips in her mission to get those body engines working again - something, she believes, everyone can achieve. “I see the body as a book, and when I study your body I can read your life,” she says. “We need to observe and understand the movement patterns of the body. It is a very intelligent vehicle; our muscles will adapt to an injury; to a postural misalignment or to a non-movement oriented lifestyle.”
Rather than the patient adapting to a particular set of exercises, though, each chosen move or exercise should be adapted to the person’s specific needs and lifestyle. Ivana labels this approach “exercise haute couture”, and devises hundreds of different exercises to “fine tune” that Ferrari. There are four main elements:
The Key, breathing
The Engine, the core muscles
The Gear Box, (neutral) the pelvis
The Alignment, the posture
“Breathing is the key to initiate the ignition,” she says. “It is the most important movement facilitator. We are the ‘pain in the neck’ generation. We have lost that capacity for breathing from our diaphragm and have become shallow breathers, which puts a lot of tension on our neck and shoulders.”
Once the key has turned on the engine, the core muscles can then be activated. But in order to move forward, the body must start from a neutral pelvis-spine position, says Ivana.
“It is only from this neutral position that we can insert the proper gear that will allow us to bring our vehicle forward, backwards, turn it left and right, and finally change speed from a slow walking pace to fast running,” she continues.
“Another essential element for a good driver is to make sure that his vehicle is kept in good alignment, meaning that its wheels are balanced and aligned and that shock absorbers are working efficiently.
“This is the role of the posture of our body.”
For those of us who are desk bound and prone to chronic neck and shoulder pain, not to mention hunching, Ivana recommends sitting in an upright chair with your feet flat on the ground, spine straight and bottom firmly positioned on the two sitting bones. Then imagine you are carrying your favourite tipple on your shoulders – in Ivana’s case, champagne – to help keep them soft and still.
She advises “inhaling through your nose for a count of three, then exhaling through your mouth for three”, imagining your rib cage gently expanding sideways as you inhale and gently narrowing as you exhale, just like an accordion.”
“I tell people to ‘smile’ from one shoulder to the other,” she says in conclusion. “A beautiful smile,” she reasons, “should not only be on the face. It gives such a different attitude,” she adds, floating off into the night with her perfect Formula 1 posture and a ‘smile’ from shoulder to shoulder.
For more information or to book a postural analysis at Life in Movement, go to ivanadaniell.com.