Why Choose Pilates for Physical Fitness?
Ask anyone what Pilates is and you might hear “It’s a bit like yoga”, “It’s great for bad backs”, “It’s great for your core”. The truth is, many Pilates teachers struggle to define Pilates in one sentence!
Joseph Pilates said, “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness” and believed physical fitness could be achieved through performing his exercises as detailed in his book regularly 4 times a week. Pilates defined physical fitness as the “attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure”.
In Joseph Pilates second book “Return to Life Through Contrology” he provided us with 34 exercises (which he called Contrology) you could do at home without the need for any expensive equipment. Along with these exercises he gives us advice about general health and reminds us many times that to epitomise the real meaning of being fit and healthy involves not just exercising your muscles but your mind too.
Mind Body Connection
Pilates is just as much about your mind as it is your body. The best explanation I have heard on this mental connection was on a Pilates Unfiltered broadcast between Jenna Zaffino and Kathi Ross-Nash only recently “it’s like checking in rather than checking out” (www.pilatesunfiltered.com episode 51). Through your practise and “persistence” you will discover that things (your body and mind) change, you can make a difference, nothing stays the same, to listen to your body and to be present.
Pilates is about movement, pushing and extending your boundaries, taking you out of your comfort zone and in turn giving you more confidence in your body. It is not supposed to be easy, and Joseph Pilates had no expectation that you should find it easy.
Pilates is a strengthening workout that improves your stamina, flexibility and increases your understanding of your body as you learn your body’s quirks, strengths and weaknesses from whatever your starting point; injured or athlete. I would say most of my clients come to Pilates injured or after their babies. From which not only do they heal and recover but in fact become stronger and continue with their Pilates practice long after they have recovered.
"Spontaneous zest and pleasure"
Now don’t get me wrong, practising Pilates or being a teacher of it does not mean you will never get injured again. We have all been over zealous showing our friends or children how to really do a cartwheel or handstand, slept awkwardly in another bed, been gardening, been fighting with children and got up to find we have a crook neck (been there) or fallen over with a child ice skating and damaged your shoulder (been there). I cannot be the only one who when injured and the kids say chase me has inwardly groaned at having to spontaneously and with zest run around after them in the playground, and the difference in your energy levels when your body is feeling strong and connected.
But through Pilates, when you do get injured you will recover faster (though probably still not as fast as you would like, “patience and persistence” my friend) as you will be more connected to your body and so better able to deal with the injury and aid your own recovery. So empowering! Going through this myself has I am sure enabled me to understand the method that little bit more (I still have a long journey of learning ahead of me) and given me confidence to know my clients will get better and I must keep them moving as much as they are able.
Pilates, challenging workout or physio based exercises?
For a long time, Pilates in the UK has had a softly softly, gentle, safe, it’s great for older lady’s and rehab reputation. The first person to put me right on this was Miranda Bass, an amazing teacher who informed a class of us “We are in the business of changing people’s bodies, of course it's hard!” Pilates can be adapted to fit the body you have today, but the aim is to change your body and mind over time and if you are not feeling challenged, hot and hopefully sweaty you will progress but at a much slower rate. I have seen this first hand in my classes at my studio, as my confidence has increased, and I have felt more capable of pushing my clients they have all progressed much further and faster, have learnt to trust and understand their bodies and enjoy their classes even more.
It’s not that I teach unsafely! But thanks to workshops I recently hosted with Anula Maiberg and Brooke Siler I teach with confidence from a place of what can they do today? Rather than the average body cannot do this or that exercise or assuming they do not need to or will not want to do an exercise. Seeing someone do an exercise they had told themselves they couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do is empowering and amazing for my clients and for me.
Pilates is my passion, but I cannot say it is the be all and end all. You should still be running, cycling, playing tennis, swimming, cross fit, rowing, netball, weights whatever you enjoy doing alongside your Pilates. But Pilates should be your maintenance, your bare minimum for body, mind and spirit so that you can do all your other activities “with spontaneous zest and pleasure”.
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