Pilates Through A Yogic Lens

I am deeply inspired by the practice of Pilates “Body, Mind & Soul”, or said another way within a yogic, healing context.  Reading Joseph Pilates’ manifesto “Return to Life: Through Contrology” and studying his life, it is clear he understood yoga, gymnastics, Zen, ancient Greek & Roman physical fitness models, and naturopathic healing methods.  He fully intended a whole-Self experience every session of Pilates and expected people to undertake a lifelong practice or pursuit of development – mind, body and spirit.  

 To give you an idea, here are some of his famous sayings:

• “The acquirement and enjoyment of physical well-being, mental calm and spiritual peace are priceless to their possessors”
• “Contrology (Pilates) develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and elevates the spirit.”
• “The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit.”
• “Above all, learn how to breathe correctly.”
• “As a heavy rainstorm freshens the water of a sluggish or stagnant stream and whips it into immediate action, so does the Pilates Methods purify the bloodstream.”
• “To achieve the highest accomplishments within the scope of our capabilities in all walks of life we must constantly strive to acquire strong, healthy bodies and develop our minds to the limits of our ability.”
And, here’s a picture of him practicing a handstand (from yoga!).

Pilates Handstand


The complication is that traditional Pilates Teacher Training programs and Pilates Classicists emphasize exact replication of the exercise and continuous correction throughout the lesson. While this method is thought to help achieve maximum quality for clients time after time, it also tends to create a left-brain, analytical, “am I doing it right?”, “is that it yet?” striving for perfection type of focus.  This is antithetical, and even undermining to a more yogic pursuit of process, which I, and I think Mr. Pilates would, ascribe to: letting go, working with awareness, focus on breath, cultivating a practice, and being in the moment exactly where you are – right now. Ahh, doesn't that sound nice?

When I work from a yogic frame in my own practice and in teaching clients, I find the possibility of utter joy, the affects of tension/stress and release, inspiration for deliberate practice, a personal window inward and the true union of mind, body and soul. People feel good about themselves and their practice, and they are left in charge of their own experience of the Pilates Method with the classic information available to guide them. They open up for what may never had been imagined, like knowing themselves as strong, capable, peaceful, flexible, grounded and, my personal favorite, courageous in the face of fear. There is a spirit of accomplishment and radiant clearing for health, healing and unimaginable happiness.


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