Updated: Apr 29
Happy Pilates Day! It's the annual love fest for one of my favorite ways to move!
I was first a yogini. Then, I moved to LA after my 200hr yoga teacher training and was hooked by the Pilates folks! My favorite Pilates studio quickly became a sanctuary and community for me in the fast paced world of LA, where practitioners had a deep knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the body, provided me a way to still stay connected to breath, my body, and increase strength and flexibility. Sign me up, I'm hooked. I want to know more!
Pilates is based and began with Joseph Pilates. Mr. Pilates was a gymnast and bodybuilder, among other things during his lifetime. He developed mat exercises that later became "Contrology"and during his time in an internment camp he began to expand and grow his concepts into apparatuses that lead to our more contemporary reformers. He had an absolutely fascinating life working with all kinds of athletes, boxers, Scotland Yard in the EU and Great Britain, to NYC ballerinas.
All the elements I fell in love with is what makes Pilates, Pilates. And of course, the dedication to the core. All movement steams from the core. The core is also an integral part of maintaining our spine's health. "You are only as young as you spine is flexible" is one of Joseph Pilate's famous quotes.
Concise Movement with Intention:
I love the concise movement with so much awareness on the subtle that my body feels nourished as well as my mind. Why my mind? Because of how concise the movement is, it leaves little else for your mind to go, so Pilates becomes meditation through movement. Meditation defined as concentration.* I loved the summary in one Pilates book as the 3 C's of Pilates: Concise, Concentration, and Connection.
Body Awareness and Connection:
I am a strong believer that becoming more aware of your own body enables you to become a strong self advocate for yourself. It takes seasoned teachers to light up the paths to get to know your muscles and bones, habits and patterning, and where you hold tension. Pilates has a deep appreciation and application of fascia work that I love. Yoga does as well of course. With the Pilates equipment such as the reformer, or chair, the springs and design lend themselves to be intuitive pieces of support so students can find these subtle layers of the body, stabilizer muscles (that could be dormant due to stress and nonuse) and strengthen and tone muscles.
Flexibility and Strength:
I am convinced the balanced yin and yang of Pilates is what muscles and fascia desire. Tone and stretch. Not that touching your toes is that important but, I did find that with my dedicated Pilates practice, my chronic tight hamstrings were able to be more flexible in less time than years in my yoga practice. And the strength component to Pilates for me is very low impact and not in your face. While you are improving flexibility, balance and learning how to properly utilize and trust your core, strength is picked up along the way. Versus doing 50 bicep curls or whatever. I was a natural lover of the air of it's better to do a few perfect ones, than a bunch of half ass ones. All of a sudden you may notice those grocery bags aren't as heavy as they've felt before, or you notice yourself catching yourself before you fell. You know, the important tasks!
I can't say enough of the benefits for preparation for baby and after baby arrives. Postpartum is for life! Once you have had a baby you are considered postpartum. Pilates takes core work to a whole new level than any other movement technique. In my experience the Pilates folk are very aware of the mechanics of the core - front, back, base, and top (as known as, belly, back/spine, pelvic floor, and diaphram). Pilates is so fantastic for pelvic floor healing, recovery, and a complimentary tool for rehabilitation.
Another common story I've heard over the years is how healing their Pilates practice is for clients. Whether through injury, surgery, divorce, death, and life in general. Pilates, like yoga, can be a place for deep healing.
You knew I couldn't not mention breath! It's so crucial to our daily lives. Pilates strengthens these important muscles so we can take a deep, full, breath in and out. There is room in our Pilates practices to be aware of the breath wave on an inhale (goes down to the belly, release pelvic floor, to the toes) and the lift on the exhale (toes to the crown of your head). Mr. Pilates was known to have studied some yoga and it shows. Not to mention the deep core work that breath is! Please don't underestimate how healing breath work is for your mind, body and spirit.
There are many different schools of Pilates techniques. Not quite as diverse as yoga luckily. The biggest separations to me are Mat, Reformer: Classic, Contemporary, and Power. There are off shoots of these but, let's keep it simple. Mat Pilates classes you can find anywhere, at your local gym, at studios, and Pilates studios, etc. In my experience mat classes should be the hardest! If you have the pleasure to take a class with a master teacher it's wicked hard! It's magic! I'm quite picky about this. I've taught at gyms and have heard, "where did you come from, THIS is Pilates not that other stuff." It ain't just a bunch of curl ups and plank variations, my friends!
Reformers are those beloved machines/apparatuses that look really intimating at first. It's like dating, I tell new clients. You need a couple sessions to warm up to it, trust it, and then you'll fall in love! Classic folks come from lines directly from Joseph Pilates students, considered "the elders" of Pilates. I love the wealth of knowledge and tradition from this line. However, I found the practitioners too snobby for my taste so I blended with the Contemporary folks. I love the adaptions, modifications, accessibility, creativity, etc with the many, many types of contemporary Pilates programs. The Power folks I tend to grit my teeth about. Some have fantastic flow, and are a great workout and others I worry about when they stray too far from Joseph Pilates intentions and brilliance. Soapbox: If the 3 C's aren't the focus for me, I'm out. Don't call it Pilates, please. And, of course the adage, if it's easy, then it's not Pilates. Or, you aren't doing it quite right.... It's deep! Deep muscles, hard to access, and they might be sleeping.
I hope you found this post informative and helpful, especially to those of you newer to Pilates or to myself. I'm Emily! I teach Pilates as well as yoga. I love them both for very different reasons. Pilates has taught me so much about my body and kept it mobile, active and pain free. Yoga is my constant friend in this crazy world, and it continues to be my therapy. Thank you so much Joesph Pilates and all my wonderful, bright stars of teachers illuminating my own path and style.
*I loved this definition of meditation: is a practice where an individual uses a technique - such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity - to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.