Am I improving? Body awareness and the mind-body connection in Pilates
So you are doing lots of Pilates and it feels like it’s getting easier. You must be getting better, right? Sadly not! As you improve, you learn more exercises and aspects of the training will become more familiar. But if you do it properly, classical Pilates will never be easy.
How you measure whether you are becoming more advanced depends where you start from. The training of an inflexible man in his sixties will develop differently from an injured female ballet dancer. Nevertheless, there are certain things that everyone has in common.
Pilates improves your relationship with your body
When you begin training you probably won’t have much powerhouse strength or alignment. We start by working on this and by re-establishing correct movement in the back. For some people the back needs strengthening to stop slumping, for others it requires loosening up so it can move naturally.
This initial stage of training will quickly change your body, and alter your perception of it as well. You may notice a difference in your body shape, become aware of your everyday posture and even get comments from people who know you well.
When you start to apply Pilates outside the studio it is a sign that you’re advancing. This may be that you no longer slump when watching TV, that you have more strength for golf or carrying the baby or that you just feel better and less achy.
Pilates improves the relationship between your mind and body
At the basic level you find your powerhouse, at the intermediate level you deepen it and at the advanced level you increase its stamina. However, being advanced is not simply about being physically strong enough to sustain your powerhouse for 55 minutes without interruption. It is as much about progress in the principles of Pilates, so that you can keep your mind concentrated in your body for that long.
Concentration is one of the ‘Pilates principles’, which involves maintaining precision and control from the centre with increased flow and focus on the breath. This concentration is how the Pilates method achieves the mind-body connection.
With increased concentration you become wholly focused on and committed to the present moment, moving without rushing or resting and with no thoughts beyond what you are doing. This ‘meditation in movement’, as our students will testify, does not have much of the airy float that the word ‘meditation’ often suggests.
This complete coordination of body, mind and spirit is the sign of advanced Pilates; when it becomes subconscious and its rhythm carries through to all your movements then you know that your Pilates practice is really improving.