You are only as old as your spine is flexible. —Joseph H. Pilates
Today was one of those rare early mornings when I wanted to skip walking to my gym to take a Pilates class. It was nearing the time I needed to leave when I realized I really had no choice. I had to go. The rest of my day was scheduled for client and volunteer work. To help me get through all of that, I needed to have some ‘me’ time to start the day.
In 2003, I took my first Pilates class and still, after taking over a 1,000 classes, I try to fit in three classes a week. Of all the other approaches that I’ve taken to be healthy, Pilates is the one that turned out to be extremely effective and enjoyable.
Pilates is a method of achieving and maintaining a healthy body that was developed by Joseph H. Pilates. Like other routines from different practices, the same exercises are repeated in each class. There’s stretching to warm up and cool down; but there is also the discipline of doing the same exercise over and over again at each class in order to hone your precision in executing each movement with control.
Popular with dancers, the controlled Pilates movements strengthen both body and mind. Quality not quantity of exercises is stressed during a Pilates routine that flows from one exercise to the next. The key in Pilates is moving from your core—that group of abdominal muscles that hold you up and help everything else work efficiency.
Gaining flexibility in my spine and strengthening my core have been my primary gains from taking Pilates classes. A wonderful secondary gain is getting to know other regular students, my Pilates Pals who are encouraging and fun to be around. A major secondary gain is that I am now certified as a Pilates mat instructor. In 2007, I co-led a “Peer Pilates” class with a Pal and have volunteered to teach a Pilates class if our instructor doesn’t show up. Sharing what I’ve learned with others looking for a healthy exercise routine at any age is part of my retirement career plans.
Another secondary gain from doing Pilates regularly is that it reminds me to work from my core in all that I do. For instance, Pilates has helped me while working to be a leader. I’m able to stand comfortably and straight in front of an audience or a classroom. When working with a consulting or coaching client, I am able to go deeper within me to find the right question or piece of advice. If I am feeling at loose ends about a proposal or an approach to help a client, I take a break and so some Pilates exercises. It helps not just to get me focused but in the process of doing a routine I can let a solution emerge from my core of intelligence.
This morning, I went to class and felt a little down and tired. At the end of class, I told our wonderful instructor that I was glad I came because I was focused, energized, and ready for my busy day ahead.
Another student said it another way, “Taking this class is a present to yourself.”
Give yourself a present. Try a Pilates class.