About a year ago, in attempt to vary my so-called physical activity (which was limited to running like a hamster in the track near my place), I decided to start going to classes in one of the gyms in my neighborhood. The first class I attended was Zumba. I already went to a number of classes in Manila with my ex-bosses and ex-colleagues, which I enjoyed. However, after several sessions, I noticed that the dance moves and accompanying music were repetitive. Thus, it got me bored (which was weird because Zumba is such an lively exercise). It felt like I was just following the steps to keep up with the fast pace of the instructor. So I decided to look for other classes.
Side note: In between Zumba classes, I attended one body conditioning class. Needless to say, I did not attend that class again. Sure, it definitely worked my entire body out. But I didn’t want to feel like my exercise is a torture from a military camp, so that first attendance was also my last.
I’m not sure why, but I decided to book a slot for the Pilates class. If I remember correctly, I practically had no idea what they do in that class. Lo and behold, I finished my first class in one piece and I felt my whole body stretched and worked out without that feeling of collapsing on the floor and dying.
As described in the book Return to Life by its creator, Joseph Pilates, Pilates is “the art of controlled movements, which should look and feel as a work-out (not a therapy) when properly manifested.” From another book called Pilates for Beginners: Explore the Core of Pilates, “It puts emphasis on alignment, breathing, and developing a strong Powerhouse, and improving coordination and balance. If practiced with consistency, Pilates improves flexibility, builds strength, develops control and endurance in the whole human body.”
I must say that on top of the bodily characteristics listed above, I can’t help but make-up life lessons out of the procedures of this exercise. Here are the life lessons:
- Listen and follow instructions
Pilates: A distinctive feature of the Pilates practice (which I can say is very similar to Yoga) is that the instructor will verbally describe in much detail, the instructions on how to do the exercises. Therefore, you cannot simply look at the instructor when he or she demonstrates the steps. Most of the time, you’re unable to see the instructor as you are doing the steps. Hence, you have to be focused and keep your ears attentive to each detail of the instruction.
Life Lesson: I don’t think there’s anybody who simply wants to follow instructions what to do with his or her life. Most of the time, we only go for what we think we want and need. If we have such tunnel vision in our lives, we end up crashing and burning. Hence, the saying “I should have listened to…I should have known…”. In life, we should keep our ears, hearts and minds open not just to our own ideals. I do believe that listening to your body, from a gentle advise from a friend, a parent or a doctor, an instruction from authority, or through the doctrines of faith would help us to be back on track when our lives are in a backward spiral.
- Relax and don’t rush
Life Lesson: I would not be Paola if I’m not a worrier and impatient. Pilates definitely addresses my impatience and uneasiness. The need for speed in running or Zumba or body conditioning cannot be applied in this class. Instead, you have keep your body in a controlled and relaxed manner, and your moves on time with the instructor.
- It’s the process of how you do it and not primarily the outcome
Pilates: The phrase “The end does not justify the means” is applicable in Pilates. This principle does not primarily put emphasis on whether you achieve the pose, but rather on how you are doing the poses. The goal of Pilates is to control and coordinate your movements. So each twist and turn has to be done correctly, in addition to proper breathing.
Life Lesson: When you join a competition or a race, most people would judge you through the outcome. If you loose, people will think that you are not good enough or not worthy. However, they fail to appreciate the work you’ve done in order to get into that competition. Yes, you may be in the last place but never fail to acknowledge and thank yourself by going so far as joining the race. It is in that process of work that you learn about yourself and enjoy what you do.
- Control yourself
Life Lesson: As mentioned in point 2, Pilates isn’t about gaining speed. It isn’t competition of who sweated the most. It’s about controlling and being precise in your moves in order to gain the benefits of the exercise. As in life, I would always tell myself to YOLO moderately. You cannot reap the goodness of life by being careless and irresponsible. Whether it is the human law, or through the instructions of faith, being tactful and thinking (not just feeling it out) about what we should do and how to do things will help us to have a better outcome in our situations.
Pilates: It’s a no-brainer that breathing is important. In Pilates, it is important to synchronise your moves with your breathing. It also helps to breathe when the moves are difficult, as it diverts our attention from the pain or the shaking of the bodies.
Life Lesson: On our regular days, breathing deeply and focusing on how we breathe can actually keep our mind off our negative situations, calm us down and help us to re-think.
I recently went back to attending Pilates classes again as I was on hiatus and concurrently tried Yoga (I will do a separate entry on this). I’m surprised that more people are attending the classes and my preferred schedule is almost always fully-booked. I’m glad more and more people are liking it. Everybody has there preferred exercise and I’d have to say that this would be one of mine. It doesn’t look as bloody hell as other intense exercises but it definitely helps me to be fit not just physically and mentally. I look forward to attending more classes (when I finally decide to enlist for a membership in that gym).