September 23, 2010
I should have written about pilates long ago, given how passionate I feel about this "sport". Nothing comes between me and my pilates mat! Originally, I began my classes with a characteristic nonchalance. I thought pilates would be a fitness program, a simple activity. At the eleventh hour, about to quit, something clicked and.....I was hooked.
At first, the passion was compulsive. I had to go daily, blindly, religiously. My body did the work but the mind was somewhere else. I thought the activity was relaxing so I allowed my mind to wander. I returned to that happy childhood daydreaming trance.
I am not sure when I began to change. Perhaps I have forgotten the sessions of sermoning, the exasperation of the instructor, even the anger. I certainly remember his patience, effort, dedication and skill. I was told to "listen", to "concentrate". I tried, yet I didn't understand the level of mental involvement. I fine tuned my "listening" and I shut off the world. I concentrated. That is when I "understood" pilates (and I relaxed even more). Pilates is about serenity. Breathing properly and NEVER showing the strain on our faces. That just consumes unnecessary energy.
When I began to understand the various exercices, I moved away from the misconception that I was just there "to work my abs and improve my posture". I could work on my arms, my hamstrings, my abductors. I was performing a full body work out and exercising in an extremely safe way. In fact, the "work out" in the studio (which is the base of my sports routine) facilitates any other sport I want to do: golf, bikram yoga, swimming, stair-climbing and occasional skiing (and for those who know me well, dancing the night away!). The stretch is best described as a "self massage". Bring your tired or sore muscles to a pilates class and they will be all released....till you wake up with sore muscles because you worked areas of your body you never knew existed.
Gathering all my humour and lack of modesty,I must confess that I didn't know I had sit bones till I was thirty eight and I was asked to sit on them in order to align my posture! Best of all, I "transfer" that posture outside the studio, the pilates part of my brain switches on and demands that I sit adequatly, insuring that my chest and shoulders are positioned in the proper range.
Much of pilates is performed while lying on your back. The beginner's sessions involve a lot of "pelvis tilts" that properly align the spine. The beginner will also learn to "stalk the spine one vertebrae at a time", or peel it off the mat. These motions have entered my subconscious and when I am laying in bed, even sleeping (I suppose), I am actually also adjusting to the correct tilts and movements to insure a restful pose for my spine. Tilting the chin by a few centimeters allows you to straighten your spine from the neck down and makes for a much comfortable position.
And this is how I have integrated the movements into my daily life and activities. I stand with my body weight balanced on both legs, avoiding the tilt of the hips to one side. While driving, I scoop in my stomach. I also reach above with my arm and not with my shoulder. My children solicit me while they sit in the back of the car and I send water bottles, or kleenex boxes, or a simple affectionate hand squeeze, with a gentle movement of the arm behind that reminds me of a certain position in "stomack massage" on the reformer!
A good posture gives me the extra centimeters to stand tall, walk and sit with a certain confident stride. The feelings of nimbleness and energy that accompany the practice of pilates can only be translated in well being and self confidence.
Just recently, my children were climbing a very tall beautiful tree, with ropesof rubber tied into ingenious bridges and ladders. One of them lost confidence, and complained of vertigo. Despite my parents reminding me that I was almost 40 and that I shouldn't try, I took up the challenge to teach my kids by example. Without hesitating, I climbed that tree, remembering that pilates had an exercice by that name, also admitting to how frequently I have hung from the cadillac without fear.
In the pilates studio there is no such thing as "I can't do it".