What is Pilates? I think most people would see it as a system of exercises on the mat and on some crazy looking machines that make the body stronger, longer, and more flexible. I think this answer is true but it’s sitting on the surface of something far deeper.
Joseph Pilates was a visionary and an extremely deep thinker. He created a profound repertoire of intelligent exercises that create a beautiful and highly functioning body. That was a feat in itself, because the exercises are so incredibly effective. Yet the beauty of his work lies in how he taught these exercises, and the thought process behind it.
Pilates emphasized the importance of a balanced trilogy of body, mind, and spirit. When performing ‘the work’ there is an ever present focus on the breath and precision of each and every movement. This attention or presence brings us into the present moment and to a place where we can listen to our bodies and tap into self-healing. We can begin to receive feedback and use that feedback to heal and/or stay healthy and injury free. Our bodies don’t talk to us with words, but rather with sensations – a twinge, sharp pain, inflammation, dull pain, tightness, sigh, sense of invigoration, flood of warmth, etc. When we constantly look outside of ourselves, we lose our connection to our inner selves and self-healing. Regardless of how perfectly you appear to be performing the Pilates repetoire, start thinking about what’s for dinner, gossip or Netflix and you are moving away from the true essence of Pilates. It’s all about connecting mind, body, and spirit. That takes a lot of awareness.
Movement as a metaphor for life was also a big topic of conversation for Joseph Pilates. I agree with this and think about it a lot when I teach. Pay attention to how you act during your session. Behavior in the studio can definitely be a microcosm of how you act throughout life. Some examples that surely permeate through….. 1) “I can’t do it” – giving up when things get challenging 2) “I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror” – never feeling good enough/overly critical 3) “I want to push myself to the limits” – overachiever 4) Giggling when falling or failing – not taking things too seriously/ability to laugh at yourself 5) Sloppy etc. The reason why I think this topic is so interesting is because when you start focusing on shaping your attitude during your workouts (for example staying in the present moment or being kind/non-judgmental), it permeates into the rest of your life. That’s when some really amazing positive transformations take place.