The Pilates Body

How often do you focus on what’s going on inside your body? Do you notice when your listing to the left? How about when your shoulders are rounding forward? Can you tell when your low back is stiff? Our bodies and our minds are communicating all the time. Take for instance hunger. Your stomach grumbles and you, no doubt, feed yourself.

Why is it then that you don’t stand up straight, roll your shoulders back, or stretch your low back? Maybe you’re distracted, don’t have time, not sure you can make the needed changes? Try retraining your neural pathways through Pilates. You’ll fine tune the connection between your body and mind, and develop muscular strength, coordination, flexibility, and much more.

Initially, Pilates is meant to be done one-on-one with an instructor. At first, the plethora of material to comprehend can seem immense: when and how to breathe, where to place your body on the equipment, how to coordinate new movements, which muscles to focus on. Working with a well-trained teacher ensures that the necessary information is layered in appropriately to fit your learning style and your body’s needs. A good instructor will partner you in ways that’ll help you engage or release muscles, realize proper positioning, and achieve deeper physical awareness. As they give support, pressure, resistance from their hands, and physical guidance, you’ll feel the nuances in your body. With the helpful touch from the instructor, they will also give you cues and imagery about how to correct learned habits.

I’ve been a devoted Pilates practitioner since 1997. In the thousands of hours of practice of staying in tune with breath, movement, choreography, spatial awareness, rhythm, alignment, and muscular engagement (to say the least), I’ve cultivated my mind-body connection. It has helped me understand my body, continually deepens my intuition, and helps me relate to others more instinctively. A few weeks ago, I was filling out a form at the doctor’s office. As I was answering some intimate questions, I felt my right shoulder quickly lift and a sudden shallowing of my breath. I stopped for a moment to listen to my body. I took another look at the question and realized that I hadn’t answered truthfully. My body was whispering to me. This subtle physical sensation was my intuitive body sending a signal to my mind. Without the time, and energy practicing Pilates I’m not sure I would have noticed this alert from my body.

Purposefully, Pilates is done without music and with eyes open to enrich the cerebral experience. So, as you move your body through each exercise with the intention of creating heat, mobility, strength, and coordination, you’ll feel the physical sensations that Pilates is designed to create. These exercises are to be done in a specific order and with flowing tempo. Your mind and body are challenged to know the exercises, the choreography, the order, the cadence, as well as subtleties specific to your body. For instance, say you have a slight scoliotic curve. When you get to an exercise that requires you to twist and curl your spine, you’ll have to focus on weighting your hips equally, and attempt to get both sides of your torso to engage, and stretch as uniformly as possible. You’ll be present, aware, and in tune with your body for your entire Pilates session.

Imagine, you’re 60. How many times have you skied your favorite run or hiked your favorite trail, and each time you come home with that nagging discomfort in your hip you think, “it’s just something I have to live with, had it as long as I can remember, I’m sure someday I’ll have to get surgery.” Well, that hip probably didn’t get that way overnight, the repetition of moving your body the same way for 30, 40, 50 or more years might’ve created this problem. Pilates not only creates muscular strength and flexibility, it develops new neural pathways. As you repeat over, and over each Pilates exercise properly you’ll develop and master the skills, and you’ll sharpen the link between your body and mind. One of the objectives of Pilates is to create uniform development (behold hip strength and flexibility to walk, stand, hike, or ski with ease). So why not try Pilates and start changing the pathways. Maybe even get rid of that nagging hip pain? It requires time and hard work, but what doesn’t?

Bridget Crowe is the owner of Body Essentials Pilates in Dillon. She has more than 2,000 hours of training from the Pilates Center in Boulder, Colorado and works extensively with her mentor Kim Haroche. Bridget has completed her Master training and is a host advisor for the Pilates Center. In 2014, Bridget was trained as a Ballet Barre instructor and in 2016 became certified to teach aerial yoga. Pilates, Ballet Barre, and aerial yoga have helped shape Bridget’s unique and comprehensive teaching style. (970) 468-1607