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The Day I Discovered the Truth About Pilates

I’ve been teaching Pilates for almost 8 years and even in that time, I’ve noticed an ever increasing demand for Pilates classes.

Enquiries for my classes or 1-1 tuition have always been in abundance but in the last few weeks my enquiries have been a little different. Three separate callers, all looking for a Pilates class in the real sense of the word. The Pilates connoisseurs will know exactly what I mean when I say that some classes are so far removed from the concept they shouldn’t be called Pilates at all.

So, why is it that I’m hearing more and more from disillusioned and disgruntled folk?

Let me start by telling you about my first experiences of Pilates. Hear me out as some of this might resonate with you.

Pilates classes EnfieldIt was about 11 years ago when my sister, who at the time lived in the States made her annual visit to us. She looked different in a good way. Yes, she was a little slimmer her muscles were defined and toned. When she revealed her washboard abs, I was gobsmacked! However, what really struck me was how her body shape had changed. Naturally, I was curious and she started to explain how she’d discovered Pilates and was attending classes on a regular basis. She described it as being mostly mat based with low impact exercises which could be modified according to your ability and fitness levels.

“You are only as young as your spinal column” – Joseph Pilates

Sometime later in life, that early curiosity resurfaced. Pilates was still something of a novelty in the UK but I managed to find a local class; I turned up to try it first-hand. There were about 30 of us congregating in the church hall, participants of all ages and mostly female. I think back with amazement as I recall standing in a big circle, holding a medium sized squidgy ball. What ensued can only be described as a musical movement lesson which would have been better suited to a 7-year-old in primary school! We stood for the best part of the hour. At the time I thought it was a bit strange but didn’t think too much of it apart from wondering how the heck my sister had managed to achieve what she had by doing this. I assumed that we’d just replicated mat based exercises standing.

However, I’ve always known better than to assume anything so I went online and started researching.

In the meantime, I thought I’d try another class at my local leisure centre. It was in the gym hall and had approximately 40 people in it, this time all sitting on mats with weights at the ready. As we sat waiting for the instructor to arrive, I kept looking around at all the people and thinking how popular she must be! I was almost in awe of her before I’d even seen her. My mind did a swift U-turn when she started teaching. Describing the class as succinctly as I can, it was like Body Pump but lying down and with relaxing music! Really? what was happening here? Some of the exercises were so precarious I could feel my Transversus Abdominis protesting to the point where if I didn’t ignore her instructions I might actually injure myself.

I walked out disappointed. In my head I compared the two experiences and felt like something wasn’t quite right. How could they be so different?

I got home and researched some more. I delved deeper and even looked into how Joseph Pilates had originally devised this method of movement as a form of rehabilitation for WW1 soldiers. That day was a revelation.

“The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power” – Joseph Pilates

Pilates classesBy this point I had a very good idea of what Pilates was really about and I decided to study the course at the YMCA. It was expensive and took months and months of study including several hours of teaching practice, postural analysis and shadowing a certified teacher; not to mention the theory and practical exams which were nerve wracking to say the least.

In complete contrast, I saw an advert, just a few weeks ago, where you could enrol onto a week’s course for a fraction of the price I paid, qualify, call yourself a Pilates instructor and then go into the world to meddle with the general public at your heart’s content!

The sad thing is that the average person doesn’t even know they have a core let alone figure out the wheat from the chaff where Pilates is concerned. The other side of the coin, is that avid Pilates peeps recognise the differences and actually spend time and money searching for the right instructor.

The moral of this story is to do your homework.

Firstly, understand the basic principles of Pilates. You can check them here. https://www.merrithew.com/stott-pilates/warmup/en/principles/five-basic-principles

Next, research the class and the instructor, taking into account insurance, qualifications and experience. Check any available testimonials or ask around for personal recommendations. You could make an initial phone call to him/her and have an informal chat, especially important if you have a postural issue or a medical condition whereby a tailored approach, initially at least, might be better than a class environment.

Once you’ve found your ideal instructor/class, keep an open mind, enjoy the experience and immerse yourself into the programme.

Finally, Pilates may not be everyone’s cup of tea at first but it’s important to give it a chance. You should attend at least 3 sessions to start appreciating the benefits so please don’t ditch the exercise mat just yet if you’ve only tried one class.

Look out for my next blog ’10 Top Tips for Choosing a Pilates Instructor’

“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference and in 30 sessions you’ll have a new body – Joseph Pilates

4 replies
  1. Michelle fallon
    Michelle fallon says:

    Really good article Mary. I have a weak cord but have never really tried Pilates. Perhaps I should x

  2. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Loved it! Just what I wanted to know as I haven’t been to Pilates since returning to Enfield because I didn’t know where to go.

  3. Beth
    Beth says:

    Great post! I used to wonder why people liked pilates after trying a few teachers like the ones you mention at the top. Now I’ve found a great teacher I totally get it!

  4. Moira
    Moira says:

    Great article, it is so important to find the right teacher. I have a great Pilates teacher – I have chronic pain and she adapts to meet my needs.

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