Why I Love Pilates

{The following post was originally written and shared in 2011.  I stumbled upon it this morning and was happy to realize that almost 9 years later, everything still rang so familiar and true to me.

Since this post was originally written, I have dove into teaching Pilates “full time”.  I realized a longstanding dream of teaching Pilates Equipment in addition to Mat Pilates. Twice I have finished in the Top Three Best of Cville; Pilates Instructors.

Teaching Pilates is a gift and an honor in my life, an outlet for sharing my passion for promoting body autonomy and empowerment.}

October 19, 2011

I wanted to title this post “Why You Should Be Doing Pilates” but I decided that sounded too bossy, so we’ll go with the top reasons I love Pilates.

It’s a great reminder that more is not always better.

Pilates principles focus on perfect repetitions with each exercise.  Pilates is all about quality over quantity, a good thing to remember with any exercise!

Form, form, and form. 

There is no place in Pilates for cheating or doing an exercise half-ass, if your form starts to fail than it’s time to rest.  This constant focus on form and alignment teaches your body to work in a balanced and symmetrical way, which will extend to other exercises and daily life.  By focusing on form on the mat you can reduce the risk of injury while performing other exercises and daily tasks as well as improve your efficiency of movement.

Flat abs.

For real.  Okay, my abs have never been fat-free but when I practice Pilates my lower belly pouch decreases/disappears and I can flex things into a four-pack.  Vanity is a great motivator. 😉

Stand up strong & tall!

Pilates is amazing for posture.  A well structured Pilates program will work on balancing out the muscles on your front and back, and the left and right sides of the body leading to improved posture and less/no pain in your shoulders and back.   Many core exercises overemphasize the abdominals and under-work the other important muscles of the torso; the upper and lower back, the hips, inner thighs, glutes, and shoulders.

Improving your posture will not only make you taller and appear more slender but can decrease pain.

Stretch as you work.

One of the reasons Pilates is known for creating lean, “dancer-like”, muscles is because with every contraction there is a simultaneous stretching and lengthening of the muscles.

Learn to stabilize.

Nearly every Pilates exercise follows the same model: stabilize through one part of the body while moving another.  Often the stabilizing happens in the torso and the movement is performed by the arms and/or legs.  This is a great model to carry over into other exercises, especially strength training.  Many exercise instructors say “engage your abs” while pumping iron but Pilates teaches you apply that statement in the most efficient way.

Love Pilates, loathe it, indifferent, or never tried it? I want to hear your reasons why you do or don’t practice Pilates!

Here’s a “Pilates Primer” for your movement pleasure 😉

Low Bar

My friend Oliver introduced me to the Low Bar concept years ago;

Set the bar low and leap over it.

As someone who is consistently feeling underacccomplished, this concept is is met with skeptism and curiousity.

But what the hell, setting the expectations high and falling short hasn’t really been working for me for the last 40 years, time to try something different.

Mostly joking but in all seriousness, setting the bar high often leads to anxiety and feelings of failure within me and I am still not convinced that my behavior changes, as in, I work harder.

I am doing an experiment and applying the “low bar” concept to several aspects of my life this month, including my professional shift that is starting this week as I go fully independent in my teaching, You can read more about Gracefulfitness Pilates here.

As far as my physical “goals”, here’s my Low Bar plan for the rest of the month:

  • Walk 1 Mile Day
  • Do Tabata-style* Planks Monday/Wednesday/Friday
  • Spend 10 Minutes A Day on Mobility

Even as I wrote the above “plan” my brain screamed, “that’s not enough!!”.

Then I remembered last month. I set running mileage goals and Pilates goals and I totally missed the mark. As a result I felt embarrassed, a little bit of shame, a sense of failure. I had set completely self-imposed meaningless expectations on myself and fell short. Again.

These are my bare minimums, my low bar. I am in Portland, Oregon for the next month or so, spending time with my sister and her family. She’s due with her second baby next week so life is uniquely unpredictable right now. Perfect timing to be kind and realistic with my expectations both professionally and personally.

So why set expectations at all?

I do well with freedom & flexibility but I also like loose perimeters, checking things off the list, a measurable sense of accomplishment. This is especially true when life is out of the ordinary and out of established routine, as it has been the last 7 months and is again for me with this trip.

Do you tend to set the bar high or low? Do you leap over it no matter how high you set it or do you tend to throw in the towel if the expectations are high?

Anyone want to join me for my Low Bar Plan, or make your own?