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.
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.
The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power. ~ Joseph Pilates
The quote above says it all. The reason Pilates is unique is that it’s a mind-body exercise, not just a physical activity. To understand how this works, we can look at the six Pilates principles that form the foundation of the practice and support the idea that body and mind are one.
There’s no doubt our bodies and minds are interconnected. Pilates is an exercise practice that teaches you the integrated connection between body and mind. It is mindful movement that can help you attain better body awareness. In Pilates, you use your mind to improve your body, and you use your body to improve your mind.
Sounds good, but what does all this mean? Let’s start at the beginning by looking at the mind-body connection and the six Pilates principles.
What constitutes a mind-body exercise?
It is not the name of the exercise, but rather how you perform that exercise that makes it a mind-body activity. A mind-body exercise is a physical exercise performed with intense focus. The exerciser does not need to be entertained with music or distracted with reading or watching a video. Instead, with focused attention, one becomes lost in the exercise and completely present.
The Six Pilates Principles
The six principles that make Pilates a mind-body exercise are centering, breathing, precision, control, concentration, and flow.
Centering – The core, or power center of the body, is the source of Pilates movements. The first step is to get centered.
Breathing – Connecting movement with breath is the physical key to Pilates. You use controlled breathing and full inhalations and exhalations to perform each movement. The exercises follow a specific number of counts or a certain rhythm.
Precision – Moving with precision ensures proper form. Quality of movement counts more than quantity in a mind-body exercise. Precision requires mental control.
Control – A mind-body exercise like Pilates involves control and balance of your own body weight. While other exercises also require control, in Pilates, control is combined with the three other principles to create a mind-body experience. Controlling your own body weight forces you to focus on what you are doing.
Concentration – Any mind-body activity requires concentration, and Pilates is no exception. When you practice Pilates, the focus is on your own body using concentration in the present moment. You are not focused on the instructor, a mirror, a video, or other exercisers. You are not daydreaming about other things. Instead, you are thinking about stabilizing or anchoring the area of the body that is not in motion.
Flow – A Pilates practice enables you to move with grace and ease. This ability to flow helps connect the energy of the body evenly.
How the Mind-Body Connection Affects Everyday Life
Now that we have a better understanding of what constitutes a mind-body exercise and how the six Pilates principles form the basis of the practice, let’s look at how this can help you in all areas of your life.
Awareness of how you use your body allows you to change habits that aren’t serving your physical or mental well-being. You’re able to adjust your habits so you can use your body more efficiently.
The Pilates principles and mind-body exercises:
- are calming and empowering
- help decrease anxiety
- enable you to feel less pain
- help strengthen your immune system and enhance the ability to heal
- give you a greater sense of control and well-being
Hopefully you now see why Pilates is more than (physical) exercise!
“The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is gaining the mastery of your mind over the complete control over your body.” ~ Joseph Pilates
Pilates Body NYC is the Upper West Side Pilates Studio that comes to ‘you’ wherever you are and works around your schedule. Together we can discover the connection of Body & Mind.
To Do List!
Are you a Pilates ‘Resolutionist’? How are your New Year’s resolutions holding up? Is Pilates still on your ‘To Do List’? Keep meaning to come to a Pilates class, but never quite make it to the studio? If that sounds familiar why not make today the day you change things. No need to go to a studio as Pilates Body NYC is the Upper West Side Pilates studio that comes to you. You supply your body, we supply the rest. Pilates made convenient!