What is Pilates?

Pilates for Pregnancy by Anya Hayes

This morning I dragged myself out of a cosy snuggle with my toddler at 7am and cycled to the gym to take part in a Pilates class. Now, technically I could have simply done an hour’s workout in my own studio space, but I think it’s so important to have a class experience so as a teacher you always retain what it’s like for your client on the other side of the fence, plus it’s good to have someone have their eye on your body and make you work beyond your slacker threshold sometimes.

But…I am wary of gym pilates classes, as I’ve experienced some shockers. And sadly this one was no different. I am still feeling alarmed and disappointed by the class, and have to confess I left early as I was feeling a combination of bored and anxious about the teaching quality. It was a badly structured and totally imbalanced class, delivered in monotonous and unimaginative style. We were left performing endless repetitions with no guidance and it was putting a strain on my back, shoulders and neck…it was a curious mixture of tedious and tiring.

It made me think, what is Pilates? If I didn’t know, and went to this class, I certainly wouldn’t become a fan. And this saddens me. I’d hate to imagine that my clients ever leave one of my classes feeling as i did this morning, a mixture of annoyed, tired, achey in the wrong way.

So, what is Pilates? Pilates should feel like a challenging yet safe workout, a way of connecting your mind to your body by concentrating on the detail of your movement, letting tension and anxiety float away as you focus on your flow. You should feel lengthened and energised, as if your spine has been gently but effectively ironed and unfurled, your limbs have been stretched and your core has been strengthened. Your neck and shoulders should feel free and released, your hips should feel as if they’ve been oiled with wd40. You should feel like you’ve had a big breath of fresh air and feel sprightly and positive.

In short, you should feel fantastic after practising Pilates. If you find it too easy, you’re not focusing enough on refining the movement and isolating your muscular control, and perhaps you need a teacher who can ignite more excitement in the technique for you. If you find it too hard, you need to work with a teacher who can adapt the movement to your body: we teachers need to bend the theory to fit the body, not bend the body to fit the theory!

You should never leave a Pilates class feeling as I did this morning. And I fear that too many gym goers are suffering due to under-par teachers out there who aren’t doing the method any favours. If you have tried Pilates out and thought it wasn't enough challenge for you, you definitely have the wrong teacher. If it was too hard and completely unfathomable, again, maybe it was the teacher rather than the method. It may of course be that it's not for you. But I reckon that Pilates is for everyone, and it's totally worth giving it a shot...

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