This is a case study about working with Susan from PIlates Body NYC, written by Susan’s client Lisa.
Six years ago, some friends suggested I try Pilates. They thought it might be something I would enjoy. And of course, they also thought it would be good for me! I’d thought about doing Pilates before, so their suggestion stuck with me. When I saw a notice in our building about Pilates instruction with Susan, I remembered what my friends had suggested. I was interested in improving strength and flexibility, so I decided to try it.
I’m glad I did.
I’ve been practicing twice a week with Susan ever since, and the results have been great! I’ve reached my goal of improving strength and flexibility, and I continue to improve. I began to see results almost immediately. While I did expect to see these results (thought maybe not so quickly), I honestly did not expect to become as dedicated to the Pilates practice as I now am.
Overcoming Hesitation and Finding Time to Practice
I’d thought about doing Pilates for many years before I finally took my first class. I hesitated, because I didn’t think I’d be able to fit classes into my schedule easily. I didn’t think getting to Pilates classes would be convenient.
I’d done other kinds of physical activity in the past. As was the case with those practices, I was mostly interested in the physical benefits of Pilates. That is still the main reason I practice.
But there’s an added benefit of Pilates, and its importance surprised me. That benefit is mindfulness. Being present (mindful) is not only a significant part of Pilates practice but is important in daily life—more important than I thought it would be. I see all the time how mindfulness translates into other activities in my life.
A Customized Pilates Program with Dramatic Results
Before I started individualized sessions, I took a group class that Susan ran in our New York City apartment building. The group class was meaningful and fun, and I’m glad I was part of it. But the benefits from the individual, customized program Susan provides delivered more dramatic results in less time. The personalized attention, customization and flow of a private session means I can have a more efficient practice.
Susan is extremely passionate and innovative. While classic Pilates is the baseline of her teaching, she is always introducing something new. Susan cares deeply about her clients and about Pilates. At the same time, she makes the practice fun!
It’s still sometimes difficult for me to find the time to practice. But I do make the time, so I can continue to work with Susan on improving strength and flexibility. I want to continue to see improvement in this important area of fitness, and I believe I will if I continue to practice.
Susan has kept me motivated to stay with my Pilates practice over the past six years. Her flexible scheduling and routines meet my needs. I’m happy to say that because of Susan, Pilates continues to be an integral part of my physical fitness.
Pilates Facts: Principles for the Complete Coordination of Body, Mind, and Spirit
Pilates is a form of exercise that emphasizes balanced development of the body. This is achieved through core strength, flexibility, and awareness that supports efficient, graceful movement. In short, the goal of Pilates is coordination of body, mind, and spirit. When considering Pilates facts, we need to look at the six core principles that Joseph Pilates set as the foundation for the practice he developed. First, though, let’s look at a couple of other selling points that make Pilates such an appealing exercise modality.
Adaptability and Development of Core Strength
Pilates is an adaptable method, meaning it is possible to modify the exercises so anyone can do them. Modification is the key to Pilates exercise success with a variety of populations. Joseph Pilates developed every exercise with modifications that can make a workout both safe and challenging for a person at any level.
Development of core strength is the foundation of Pilates exercise. The core muscles are the deep, internal muscles of the abdomen and back. When the core muscles are strong and doing their job, as they are trained to do in Pilates, they work in tandem with the more superficial muscles of the trunk to support the spine and facilitate movement.
As you develop your core strength, you develop stability throughout your entire torso. This is one of the ways Pilates helps people overcome back pain. Stabilizing the trunk properly relieves pressure on the back. The body can then move freely and efficiently.
No discussion of Pilates facts is complete without looking at the six Pilates principles. In fact, if we want to understand Pilates facts, we need to start here.
These six principles—centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow—are the foundation of the Pilates approach to exercise. Applying the principles to the Pilates method of exercise is part of what makes Pilates unique in the fitness world.
With this in mind, let’s look briefly define each principle.
Centering – Physically bringing the focus to the center of the body, which is the area between the lower ribs and pubic bone. Energetically, Pilates exercises are sourced from center, or the core.
Concentration – Placing full attention on the exercise and performing it with full commitment to obtain maximum value from each movement.
Control – Using muscles completely. In Pilates, we do not leave any part of the body to its own devices.
Precision – Sustaining awareness throughout each movement with detailed attention to the appropriate placement, alignment relative to other body parts, and trajectory for each part of the body.
Breath – Joseph Pilates emphasized using a very full breath in his exercises. He advocated thinking of the lungs as a bellows and using them strongly to pump air fully in and out. Proper breathing is an integral part of a Pilates workout. Most Pilates exercises are performed in coordination with the breath.
Flow – Moving with fluidity, grace, and ease. The goal is to use the energy of an exercise in an even way to connect all parts of the body.
Knowing these Pilates facts and applying them to your practice is your key to success. In other words, like anything else, you’ll need to take the time to understand the foundation of Pilates practice. Know your Pilates facts, and your practice will thrive!
If you attend fitness classes, do you work out with a teacher or instructor? If that seems like a strange question, read on. While it may seem like teachers and instructors are the same, there are some important differences.
Teacher or Instructor: What’s the Difference?
Consider this quote:
If you learn only methods, you’ll be tied to your methods, but if you learn principles you can devise your own methods. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
As the quote suggests, there is a difference between needing continual guidance from an outside source (an instructor) and learning how to learn under the guidance of a teacher. When it comes to choosing a teacher or instructor, there are benefits to both, but eventually, you’ll want to be able to function on your own.
Let’s look at the Merriam Webster’s dictionary definitions of both teach and instruct. This will help you decide whether a teacher or instructor is right for you.
Definition of Teach
- to show how to do something; give lessons to
- to give lessons in
- to give knowledge, insight, etc. to
Definition of Instruct
- to teach, educate
- to inform
- to order or direct
If you look closely at these definitions, you will see a clear distinction, even though they are similar. Which method is more effective for you? Do you learn better when you are taught or when you are instructed?
The Difference Between Teaching and Instructing
The definitions above suggest a major difference between teaching and instructing. Teaching involves guidance, example, and mentoring. This requires a deeper level of both subject matter knowledge and skill in caring for the student. Teachers invest in their students on a personal level.
Instructing, on the other hand, does not really require an investment or deep level of care for the student. Instructors simply impart information authoritatively, often by order or command. On a superficial level, this can be effective. If you need information quickly, your relationship with the source may not be so important. However, the skills and abilities that stick with us throughout our lives tend to come from teachers, not instructors.
Do You Want a Pilates Teacher or Instructor?
Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know, whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing. ~ Albert Einstein
In terms of Pilates or any kind of fitness classes, instructors and teachers serve distinct roles. Sometimes a person can function as both a teacher and an instructor depending on the situation. In certain situations, a set of instructions guiding students through a series of exercises may suffice, especially for familiar routines.
A good teacher can help students move forward so they can continue to progress and improve. In other words, deep, lasting learning requires a teacher—someone invested in you and your success who can help you tap into your own abilities and identify what you need to do in order to thrive.
There are six principles in Pilates: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow. The principles work together, and they each have their own benefits as well. Let’s look at Pilates concentration—what it is and why it’s important.
What is Pilates Concentration?
Pilates is a unique exercise modality because the focus is on both mind and body. In Pilates, breathing is the physical key to attaining mind-body awareness. Concentration is the mental key. Pilates concentration can be thought of as the conscious control of a movement or exercise which concurrently enhances body awareness. In Pilates, precision and proper form is much more important than how many reps of an exercise you complete.
When you have proper concentration, you can do an exercise while focusing on all the variables that make the exercise effective. For example, you are aware of whether you are in the right position. You notice if your shoulders are in the right place, and you make sure your back feels okay. You simultaneously focus on the full movement and each of its components. To do this, you must remain in the moment throughout the exercise.
Pilates Concentration is Useful in Everyday Life
The benefits of concentration go beyond exercise. It is a skill you can take off the mat as well. By using concentration to make a strong mind-body connection, you become more focused on where your body is in space all the time. You’re more aware of where you are in relation to what is physically going on around you. This leads to more balanced, graceful movements and reactions no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
Why the Ability to Concentrate Matters in Pilates and in Everyday Life
The body awareness you develop from strong concentration while doing Pilates exercises will help you in a lot of practical ways. Let’s say you’re standing on a crowded subway car. You couldn’t get a seat, so you’re holding on to a strap or pole while the train is moving. Your ability for concentration and knowing where your body is in space will help you react to the bumps and jerks of the subway car. You’ll more easily keep your balance, and you won’t feel as anxious about the ride.
Or suppose you’re in a mall that’s packed with shoppers. Creating that inward focus will affect your outward movement. You’ll ease in and out of the aisles, passing by other shoppers without being jostled as much.
Body awareness also helps you stay safe. Many injuries happen because a person is not paying attention to what is going on in or around the body. With concentration and attention, you’ll be less likely to do things that result in injury.
Pay attention. Concentrate. Be Aware.
Pilates exercises help you get physically fit, but they also help you pay attention, concentrate and remain aware. This is important for both physical and mental well-being. Awareness is the first step in being able to respond to a situation. The more you practice concentrating on physical movements on the mat, the more you’ll notice off the mat as well.