…Exercise. Yes it it.
…Therapeutic movement. Yes it can be.
…A long-term practice. Ideally, if we make it so.
These to me are the three main aspects of a Pilates practice and we each make determinations about how we use Pilates based on these aspects.
When we commit to Pilates as a long-term practice it can serve us either as exercise or as therapeutic movement depending on our current situation.
Over my nearly 20 years of maintaining my Pilates practice has mainly served me in two ways – it helped me stay strong in spite of my physical limitations and it has helped me cope with the pain that is part of my physical challenges. Some days my Pilates is more of a workout, some days it’s more of a therapeutic movement session. The fact that I have both as options sets Pilates apart from so many other types of exercise and I’m grateful that I learned Pilates in my mid-twenties because the more people I meet, the more I realize that it’s not a question of if you have a physical challenge, it’s a question of WHEN it shows up.
“In order that one may receive the maximum benefit and resulting normal health from one’s daily activities, one should understand at least some of the rudimentary underlying principles governing the mechanism of the human body in motion, rest and sleep. For example, knowledge of the leverage possibilities of the skeletal framework, the range and limitation of proper muscle tension and relaxation, the laws of equilibrium and gravity, and last but not least, how to inhale and exhale (ie, how to breathe properly and normally) are essential if we are to benefit from any exercises.”
Recalling Joe’s words, even when Pilates is a workout, we pay attention to the details of our alignment and we are exercising our whole selves. That level of practiced body control puts us in an excellent position to address problems when they arise. While we are dealing with a situation that compromises us our work becomes very careful and guided by these three ideas:
1 – Create circulation to help the body in it’s daily work of repair and restoration. In Pilates we work around the troubled area rather than directly on it.
2 – Strengthen support of the troubled area by keeping focused on the body as a whole and the critical importance of true core strength.
3 – Complications always teach us at least one thing, probably more. Generally, complications are going to show us where we have a weakness and this is important to know. We all have strengths and weaknesses that we must strive to keep in balance to maintain normal health. Complications always make us work better because we have to be more careful and attentive to our alignment and muscle coordination.
Pilates is DIY exercise. Part of what this means is that it is not necessary for us to know / understand the anatomy, PT, MD perspective. We certainly have that available to us in today’s world if we are able and interested in working with the necessary diagnosticians. But such an understanding is not imperative for practicing Pilates. If we were to look carefully at the details each of our bodily forms we would see that not one of us looks like the picture in an anatomy textbook, and that’s fine! Diagnosis can serve a purpose but in terms of the practicality of building and sustaining functional strength, it is merely a point of departure. Far more important than a diagnosis is our mindset around self care and maintenance and our ability to feel what is happening in our body. Many of us live up in our head, in this case it may take a while to relearn how to feel our body.
A few years ago, I decided to distill my love and appreciation for what The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning has given me into a book – it’s called Embodying YES, The Core Mindset that Will Alleviate your Back Pain. In that book, I share five stories including my own about how Pilates serves those of us who live with back pain. Since then I’ve made rapid progress in what became my quest to be completely done with chronic pain thanks to the MELT method. I invite folks to purchase and read my book and to stay tuned for the next half that I promise to write when my quest is finally and mercifully complete. In the meanwhile, you can follow my progress in this blog where I devote a post each to Pilates and MELT every month.