How Pilates Helped Former Model Aoife D’Arcy Find Mindfulness

We continue our mindfulness series with an interview with co-owner of Form School, Aoife D'Arcy


Words by Susan Morrell
March 14th, 2016

Aoife D’Arcy once enjoyed a lengthy career strutting the catwalks as one of Ireland’s top models, but it was her discovery of Reformer Pilates (and the influence of her husband, retired Irish international rugby player Gordon D’Arcy) that led her to the path she walks today: that of personal wellness and being a mindful mum to nine-month-old daughter Soleil.

Aoife D'Arcy

The couple co-own Form School, a beautifully designed Reformer Pilates studio, which strives to create an atmosphere of bliss with its thoughtful interiors, low lighting and artwork on the walls, painted by Aoife herself.

Aoife spoke with us recently about what inspired her transformation from high heels to wellness, and why she feels every person needs time for themselves in order to lead healthier, happier lives.

Why leave modelling to set up your own business? 

I was in modelling for 14 years, which was great because with modeling your star can shine brightly for a very short period of time. It was always looming in the back of my mind that it could come to an end at any time and I wanted to leave modelling on my own terms.

Why Pilates?

For me it ticked all the boxes. I just couldn’t do the gym. I hated everything about it. When I discovered Reformer Pilates, every facet of it – the physical element but also the mental element – really appealed to me. I used to get a very sore back from modelling and Gordon suggested to me that I try it. (He discovered Pilates when he was over in Australia with Ireland playing rugby.) Once I started, it was a proper addiction.


When did you discover the importance of mindfulness in your life?

I discovered it when I got into Reformer Pilates. With modelling, you’re getting constant rejections and you try not to take it personally, but it does grate you down. When I would go to class, I could totally switch off from the world. There’s so much breathing as part of the exercises, it’s so calming. I realised it was important to have this outlet. Life’s so busy now for everybody. It’s important to take time for yourself, to have an hour in your day that you get to just focus on you.

What was the goal in setting up Form School

Myself and Gordon decided that we wanted to set up our own studio and create a space that we ourselves would want to work out in.
It was important for me to create a welcoming environment, not just somewhere you want to get in and get out. Whether you’re busy being a mom, crazy in work, or just having a stressful day, it’s somewhere you can go and for 60 minutes just switch off.


Has nutrition always been important to you?

When I started modelling, there was zero chat about food. We used to go to fashion shows down the country and the model bus would pull into the chippers on the way home. But over those 14 years, girls got a lot more focused on looking after themselves. When I was pregnant I became even more aware of how important food is. I definitely found the nine months a challenge, but it was really good because it forces you to look at food differently and to get a bit more creative.

Did your husband’s influence stretch to the kitchen too?

Gordon is really into healthy food, and that was an eye-opener for me when I met him. I don’t think I would be capable of being extremist with my diet. I’m all for everything in moderation. Being a mum, you need a lot of energy. If you’re eating badly, you’re actually getting more tired. You need to be really healthy to be looking after another little human.

How important is fitness in pregnancy?

Those nine months are so incredibly tough on your body. It really is so important to do something when you’re pregnant and to prepare for a. the birth, but b. the aftermath. Just carrying your baby is so tough physically, they’re quite a weight. It’s important to look after yourself and to have that physical strength, so when those nine months finish you’re in the best physical shape you can be for what’s ahead of you.

How else do you incorporate mindfulness into your life?

I love cooking. I find it therapeutic. To go out of my comfort zone, trying different recipes, different books, I really enjoy it. I love cutting Soleil’s bread with animal shapes and all the decorating of her plate. Anything visual I love. As an artist, I work in acrylics on canvas, painting with chopsticks basically, kind of like pointillism. People say, how do you have the patience? But again I find it so therapeutic.

Open 7 days a week, Form School has a class suitable for everyone no matter how busy your life can be, including 30 minute lunch classes that allow you to get your exercise in during the day. See for full class schedule and details.

Form School is located at 24A Grattan Street, Dublin 2.

Did you miss our beginner’s guide to mindfulness? Catch up here.