In recent weeks, the 19-year-old Miley Cyrus has been less known for her singing and on-screen talents and more for her newly sculpted body. Many column inches of late have been dedicated to the star's shrinking frame, prompting some to question whether she's taken the daily Pilates regime prescribed by the Los Angeles-based instructor Mari Winsor a step too far.
Quick to defend her client of four months, who is also reportedly on a gluten-free diet, the celebrity fitness guru told People magazine: "I think people need to chill out. She's healthy and feels good, that's the main thing."
Natasha Vallen, a 30-year-old Dubai-based film producer who has become a Pilates and Xtend Barre enthusiast, says her own body transformation came about in an equally swift time frame.
"I started classes six months ago and have definitely seen a marked difference in my quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes," she says "My posture has also drastically improved and I find myself walking and sitting with a straighter back.
"I attend three Xtend Barre classes a week at Real Pilates in Dubai and the appeal is that it's a calorie-burning, ballet-inspired form of Pilates with weights. I've slimmed down without bulking up, feel more energetic and sleep far better these days."
To keep pace with increased demand for strength-building and sculpting classes, yoga and dance schools across the UAE have added additional Pilates sessions to their timetables over the past year.
"There has been a definite increase in Xtend Barre classes - people are very excited about it," says Caroline Leon, a 27-year-old Pilates practitioner at Exhale, Dubai's ladies-only dance, yoga, Pilates and body-toning studio.
"As for Pilates Reformer - where a machine is used for resistance - we normally have a very high attendance of up to 90 per cent for every class."
What separates Pilates from other disciplines and fad exercise regimes, says Leon, is brains, not brawn.
"Pilates is the thinking man's exercise," she says. "It allows you to better understand your body, how it moves and works - that's what makes it different. In addition to it helping you utilise and sustain your movements through breathing correctly."
If you're hankering after Cyrus-like curves, you'll need to do some groundwork, says Leon, as only fools rush in.
"With Reformer Pilates, we make people do an introductory course to learn about the anatomy of the bed, with its pulleys, springs and gears, how to adjust it to your strength and capabilities," she says. "And with Xtend Barre it is definitely preferable to do some mat work beforehand."
Natasha Robottom, a 31-year-old Pilates instructor at Body Tree in Abu Dhabi, says Pilates is suitable for people ages 14 to 90 and adds that the studio is seeing more men these days, too.
"I often tell my clients the quote by Joseph Pilates: 'You are only as old as your spine'," she says. "If you keep moving all the time and have mobility in your spine, then you can perform daily activities a lot better than when sedentary. You really can continue to adapt Pilates to your lifestyle throughout your life."
However, as much as she loves her new form, Vallen has no interest in pushing farther, as Cyrus seems to have, with a punishing schedule of daily classes.
"Everything in moderation, I would say. And besides, forming an addiction to Pilates seems unlikely without Cyrus's superstar lifestyle and unlimited budget for private lessons."
For more information, schedules or to try Pilates:
• Body Tree, Abu Dhabi, www.bodytreestudio.com, 02 443 4448.
• Real Pilates, Dubai, www.real-pilates.com, 04 345 3228.
• Exhale studio, Dubai, www.exhaledubai.com, 04 424 3777.