Practice Pilates - Change for Good
I’m a big fan of musicals, especially full-scale Broadway productions. There’s something about breaking into song to tell the story that just fills me with joy. One of my all-time favorite musicals is Wicked. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out. In particular, the song lyrics are so clever! My favorite song, sung by Glinda and Elphaba near the end as they’re saying farewell to each other, is “For Good”. In the song, Glinda expresses how her relationship with Elphaba has changed her….
"Like a comet pulled from orbit As it passes a Sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But Because I knew you I have been changed for good"
Similar to the way we are changed by the people and experiences in our lives, Pilates will change you. Quite possibly in ways you never imagined.
I came to Pilates many years ago looking for a workout that would keep me strong and flexible while reducing the accumulation of aches and pains I had acquired. And I certainly found that in Pilates! The genius of the exercises, the way the system stretches and strengthens your entire body, fascinated me. I considered myself to be in great shape, but the exercises were very challenging. I left each session feeling tired and sore, yet invigorated and wanting more.
As my practice progressed, I began to be more in tune with my body and how everything is interconnected. With coaching from my teachers and mentors, I began to explore how I was over-efforting in my practice. Discovering what’s “just enough” effort for the movement, and letting go of effort and tension that wasn’t needed, was quite a revelation. You mean I don’t have to work so hard? Are you sure?! Although this is an area I still struggle with today, it was a turning point for me in my practice. It was also the point that Pilates became more than a “workout” and spilled over into other areas of my life.
The physical changes from Pilates are somewhat easy to spot. Yes, you might look better in your bathing suit. You might notice you’re standing taller, feeling more toned, and overall stronger. Then you might start to notice more subtle changes. Maybe how having better posture improves your confidence. Or how the calming effect Pilates has on your nervous system makes it easier for you to respond to life’s challenges.
Joseph Pilates believed that Contrology (as he called what we now call Pilates) changes you at a cellular level. The breathing is designed to flood your entire body with fresh oxygen, and the movements circulate blood to every fibre and tissue of your body. We now know the importance of mindful movement such as Pilates in calming and resetting the nervous system.
Then the real magic happens as Pilates starts to change how you interact with the world. The concepts of “effort with ease” and “what’s just enough” spill over into how we respond to the world around us. Kind of like picking your battles with your toddler or teenager. And recognizing that we are fields of energy, and that our energy affects not only how we feel but how those around us respond to us.
And finally, recognizing that it’s a practice. It’s a journey, not a destination. We are constantly in a state of change, never stasis. We need resilience, that combination of strength and flexibility. We talk about
“balance”, but it’s really more of a cycle of activity and rest, like the seasons. Now more than ever, Pilates helps to navigate the uncharted waters and respond with calm, loving energy. And don’t we need more of that in the world?
Pilates doesn’t fundamentally change, which seemed weird to me at first. You mean I keep doing the same exercises? Of course there are lots of variations to play with, but the fundamental movements themselves don’t change Then I realized that Pilates doesn’t have to change because I’m the one being changed by Pilates. Pilates will change you for the better, and it will change you for good.