The “Pilates” Body

Whenever I am the special guest for a teleseminar or radio interview, there is one question that inevitably comes up. How did I learn to connect with my body? I always answer that question truthfully – Pilates. But in the limited amount of time we have during an interview, I never get the opportunity to dive into a deeper discussion. We don’t have the time for me to address the underlying issues that were healed by my practice of Pilates. So for the casual listener, it might seem as if I am implying that “Pilates is the answer.”

There are several problems with this assumption. First off, not all “Pilates” are equal. Doing Pilates with a DVD is not the same workout as with group or private instruction. Second, not all instructors are equal. Some are more knowledgeable than others – some are better at teaching. Finally, Pilates can be an expensive habit. So to those for whom the expense is cost prohibitive, I haven’t provided a helpful answer.

The biggest potential misunderstanding – that I don’t have time to address in these interviews – is that my body’s form is the result of the Pilates workouts. My body’s shape is not the results of the workouts. My body’s shape is the result of my connection to and my relationship with my body – which were developed through the practice of Pilates.

The deeper issue at play – which I rarely have time to address in interviews – is that the conventional “diet and exercise” model for weight-loss inherently disconnects us from our bodies. And from that perspective, even Pilates isn’t necessarily helpful.

With the conventional “diet and exercise” approach to wellness, we are reduced to a simple balance sheet of calories in and exercise out. Calories become a currency of exchange, and we only get to eat “so much.” Otherwise, we have a “price to pay” – exercise or weight gain.

To think of ourselves as a caloric balance sheet demands that we disconnect from our bodies if we are to be successful. When we’ve eaten “our lot”, we must stop – regardless of whether or not we are still hungry. If we don’t stop eating – if we eat “too much” – we need to “burn it off” – regardless of whether or not we have physical pain or energy.

So from this perspective, Pilates is just another way to “burn calories” and try to “lose weight.” And from this perspective, many of the benefits of Pilates – including the key benefit of connection with the body – are lost.

Yes, Pilates is the way I learned to connect with my body. But first, I had changed my mindset. I did not look to Pilates as a way to “earn the right to eat,” to “whip my body into shape” or the “miracle workout that all the celebrities did.” I looked at Pilates as a way to feel good in my body. And, as a consequence, through practicing Pilates I was able to connect with my body.

Pilates is a wonderful way to connect with your body, but it is not the only way to connect. Any activity in which you are consciously engaged can build connection and relationship. It isn’t the specific exercise that is important – it is the mindset with which you engage in the exercise. And letting go of that core “diet and exercise” mindset will make all the difference.