The Pilates Method, or Contrology, at its essence, is a skill. By trying Pilates you are trying to learn a skill – the skill of moving.
Skills take practice. Lots and lots of practice. All that is required to ‘do’ Pilates is for you to commit to actually doing it. It requires you to put in the time to ‘get it’. There are some guidelines on how to ‘do’ Pilates (we call them Principles) and although they are important (and I don’t want it to be confused how important I think they are – they really are vital), but the big thing is you have to commit. Commit to the effort. Commit to the breathing. Commit to showing up and moving. Commit to the practice.
Believe it or not, the wonderful thing is while you’re putting in the time to practice you can’t get it ‘wrong’. Wait. What?! You heard me – you cannot get it wrong. Now obviously there is an order to things and a Pelvic Curl is not The Hundred. Flexion is not Extension.
But are you trying to do a Front Support when asked to do a Front Support?
Are you breathing? Hey look you’re doing it! Go you! Now do it again!
‘But what if I’m not doing it right?’
Well, first of all, you cannot get it wrong, and second of all, you cannot get it wrong! Don’t believe me? Check out footage of Joseph Pilates teaching a class to some dancers, e.g. people who move their bodies a lot, and tell me who is doing it ‘right’.
There are some wild things going on in that class that would horrify some Pilates Teachers today – but do you notice what Joseph Pilates is doing?
He’s not coming over all the time, correcting positions or providing support. He’s not demonstrating every movement asking the class to copy him. He’s letting them go for it. He’s letting them just move. Are you going to say some of those dancers in Joseph Pilates’ class are not ‘doing’ Pilates simply because they don’t look the same? Now, could you do it ‘better’?
Sure you can, but that depends on what you mean by better. If by better you mean something that looks aesthetically pleasing, then that brings in a whole lot of other factors and judgment that have no place in a Pilates class. If however by ‘better’ you mean feels nicer, or feels challenging yet good, or, heaven forbid, fun, then yes you can do it ‘better’. But here’s a newsflash– so can everyone, with practice!
I think it’s great when a client wants to do it ‘right’ – it shows they are committed in trying to do the work justice. But trying to get it ‘right’ could lead you down the wrong path. If you’re too busy trying to replicate what a movement looks like you might miss out on what it feels like.
Don’t compare your position or execution of a movement with your neighbour – they don’t have your body, you don’t have theirs so how could you possibly replicate their movement? Instead, try to listen to what your body is telling you – it’s clever and it’s trying to tell you something!
Now how wild would it be if we could change this narrative inside a class? Instead of asking ‘Where should I be feeling this?’ or ‘Is this right?’, flip it around. ‘Where are you feeling this, right now, in this moment?’
There is no wrong answer – you feel it wherever you feel it! The important thing is to actually feel. THERE IS NO WRONG ANSWER! Follow this line of questioning with ‘Does it feel good? Does it feel hard or challenging? Do you feel pain? Or is it only discomfort?’
Again there are no wrong answers.
You are connecting to how your body feels and moves – how can that be wrong? In fact, it’s my main task as a Pilates teacher– connecting you to your own body. Concentrate on what is happening. Take that moment, take that breath and use it. Just move. Just feel. Just be.
“It’s the mind itself which shapes the body.” Joseph Pilates