I believe Joe Pilates thought of his method of contrology as more than just exercise, but as a lifestyle.
Sometimes the conversation comes up about whether there is a Pilates “lifestyle” in the same way as yoga is a “lifestyle”. While I love yoga and think its great, (I am a certified yoga teacher as well) it’s just simply totally different than Pilates in many ways. My feeling is that they are complimentary but should not be mixed in the same practice, even though some of the moves may look the same. (They are not.) However, both yoga and Pilates allow the opportunity to become more connected and in touch with how your body moves, what its optimal alignment and movement patterns are, and awareness around what is weak and/or imbalanced.
I’ve been thinking about this and watching my clients become more and more advanced in their practice and connected to their bodies, and I’ve noticed new healthier habits form over time. For example, some have shared with me about becoming more in tune with how food affects them (sugar especially) and are able to make healthier choices more easily after developing a regular Pilates practice. I’ve also had students tell me they are more aware of how often they unconsciously hold their breath, and how breathing more fully releases tension in their body. This is huge! Once this begins to happen, it can change the game around how a person creates and develops habits, makes decisions and moves through the world more mindfully.
What if The 7 principles of Pilates can also be applied not just to a person’s progress with Pilates, but with their lifestyle as well?
Things like balance, core stability and strength, efficiency and focus are keystones to the Pilates method and when treated as a holistic practice it becomes a lifestyle.
I BELIEVE HOW YOU DO ONE THING IS HOW YOU DO EVERYTHING.
Pilates is for your life. Its about form, function, and foundation.
There is no zoning out, just tuning in.
There is no maxing out, just efficiency. There are modifications, but no shortcuts.
There is no stopping, (ideally, at least that’s the goal), but no speeding either. Just beautiful flow and smooth transitions (of course that is where the practice comes in).
There is no cheating, just real, honest and true alignment with where you are at the time, which is the only thing that builds a solid foundation for future progress.
Finding your center is powerful. It sets you up for everything else, which is why it’s the first principle. Just tuning into your center in any given moment is like a mini meditation. Try it now, as you read this. Hold the feeling of being connected to your center, just sitting still. What about you is unique and never changes? Who are you at your core? At the “center” of your being, what do you stand for, what do you believe in?
There are so many distractions, and we are constantly being pulled in so many directions, that conscious concentration is in itself a practice. Can you concentrate on just being, or just focusing on your breath? It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but its the best way to calm your nerves and choose your actions rather than reacting.
Developing control in Pilates is empowering. It takes an awareness of boundaries as you let some muscles relax as others contract to keep optimal alignment. Getting it all to happen gracefully is where the practice comes in. How balanced is your “control” meter in your life? Are there places you could have better boundaries, or where you could let go more in order to ultimately find more freedom in a relationship or other situation?
The goal is to eventually have more precise, clean, purposeful movements in Pilates (emphasis on “eventually” because this takes time!) It takes lots of attention to move with the right amount of strength coupled with the right amount of stretch along with attention to the details (soft feet, long neck, relaxed shoulders, etc.) This principle relates to the details of our lives that might be a little sloppy right now due to lack of awareness, or because we are focused on other things, or because they are on the back burner while we deal with bigger things. Maybe we could get more sleep, drink more water or do a better job at keeping track of our cash flow. Whether it’s Pilates or regular life, it’s always a work in progress so be patient with yourself but don’t give up.
Think about what breathing is: nourishing your body with fresh oxygen and getting rid of old stale air. Replenishing yourself. “OUT with the air!!” Joe Pilates used to say. Every exercise has a specific breath pattern. Feeling full breaths is part of the Pilates method. Finding the breath in any situation brings us right back to centering (the first principle) and calms the nervous system. It is so closely tied to the emotional system and proper breathing can help you feel grounded and present in any stressful situation.
In Pilates, the goal is to have the movements smoothly transition from one to the next. Not necessarily going faster, but keeping the consistent flow. No energy is wasted because movements are performed with efficiency. There is no stopping to rest, so you have to pace yourself without losing attention to detail. Think about how well your day flows. How well do you transition between different parts of your day? How could you pace yourself as if your day was one big Pilates session?
When good alignment is achieved, breathing is easier, blood flow is better, muscles don’t overstretch or overwork, and movement is easier. Progression happens after a good foundation is established. Explore what alignment means outside of your physical body. How well do your words align with your actions? How well do your actions align with your beliefs or goals? How does it feel to speak honestly in alignment with your truth?
There’s a lot there to digest! Thanks so much for reading this far about how Pilates connects us through mind, body and life. Would love to hear your thoughts!
Till next time!