“A man is as young as his spinal column”, Joseph Pilates famously stated. He was fascinated by animals, but a lot of his knowledge (and inspiration for exercises) came especially from studying cats, who he found to be the supreme animals! “Everything should be smooth like he cat”, he said. There are 6 Pilates Principles (not set out by Joe Pilates, but established by teachers later) which are Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breathing and Flow. Personally, I like to add Efficiency and Fluidity, but you get the point. You'll recognise all off these concepts when you watch this amazing video:
When welcoming a new client to my Pilates class I'm often told by them, almost apologetically:” I can't even touch my toes!”, to prove how stiff they are. And it doesn't stop there for many. Can you sit up with your legs straight out in front of you for example? Or, if you lie down, does your chin poke up because the back of your neck seems too short? Try lying on your belly and bending a knee. Do you feel the front of your hip coming off the floor? The body is often full of tight spots and imbalance. And he was right, Joseph Pilates. It's not age that makes you old. I teach people in their sixties that are more limber than many teenagers are. When did we collectively get SO stiff that movement is no longer fluid and efficient, but instead inflexible and out of balance?
Our bodies are a bit like orchestras, the brain being the guy (or woman) waving the baton around in the air (some more worked up and sweaty than others ;). Big drums for dramatic bold movements like glutes in running, flutes for the more refined and delicate neck or fingertips. They all need to listen to each other or else the rhythm, melody gets lost and frankly the whole piece falls apart. Too much brass or not enough strings won't work either. That's why they practice so often, and don't just get their instruments out once a week on Saturday night at the theatre. You have to practice movement. Tweak and refine it, all the time.
I know from first hand experience what 'no movement' does to the body. I have a chronic auto-immune disorder (Lupus) which causes inflammation in the body. The joints, the tissue, the ligaments, you name it. Mornings and evenings are the worst during a flare-up, when there is the least amount of activity. I could wake up and hardly be able to move. An hour later, after being up and walking around, having breakfast and playing with my daughter, I could almost feel like normal. I teach Pilates with the purpose of my student being out there in the world living his or her life. I help fine-tuning the melodies so to speak. I generally don't demonstrate exercises, because Pilates is not a bunch of randomly choreographed 'moves'. I teach how, so that people now this for the other 167 hours of their week, so that their orchestra can practice all the time, and soon they practice without noticing. They become musical (and that the last reference to my comparisson, I promise).
The human body is incredible. I'm truly fascinated by it, and love learning about it, from a professional -and self-confessed nerdy- position, but also ever since becoming a mum. I love watching our daughter grow and develop from a tiny little baby into a gorgeous confident little girl who, amazingly, just instinctively knows how to move well and is physically active all the time. And sadly, as we get older being physically active is no longer a state of being. It becomes a chore and that's when the trouble often begins. I read a lovely quote a while ago that said Treat your body like someone you love, and I try to keep that in mind when my body aches and doesn't feel well. I nurture it with warm salt baths, sometimes massages, regular chiropractic treatments and of course, movement. There is more to the body than muscles and bones. The nervous system, immune system, digestive system, .. You may not think about those as much but they need our attention too. And all of it helps, a hell of a lot. I leave you with efficiency and fluidity in its full glory with these beautiful Pilates demo's and an imaginary grand orchestra finale. Enjoy.
Certified Pilates Teacher
Owner of South London Pilates