Perfect. Isn’t it a nice word? It has such a positive connotation. So you may be surprised to hear that when I’m working with apprentices or new teachers, I advise them to use “perfect” sparingly. To be perfect means there is no more room for growth. It’s like you’ve reached your final destination. But the danger with feeling you must be perfect, inside or outside of a Pilates studio, is you may never be content with where you are. You may feel you are falling short, or not good enough. It’s a lot of pressure to put on oneself.
I bring this up because the other day one of my clients was frustrated when he felt like he wasn’t doing an exercise correctly. After encouragement from my end that he’s improved so much since he started (just six months ago), he looked at me and said, “but I want it to be perfect.” While I love his effort, I had to explain to him that no one is perfect, not even me.
It’s true, not even Pilates instructors are perfect. Can you believe it? And I was hoping by admitting this to him, he would give himself a break. In all seriousness, I try to relay to my clients that Pilates has a lot of depth to it, making it an ever-learning practice. You aren’t just moving your body in a lesson. You are training your body how to move correctly. Ideally these corrections stay with you long after you leave the studio. This is one of the reasons I fell in love with the method.
While most people practicing Pilates will never reach perfection, they will experience marked improvements and movement forward. Every day I see progress in my clients, whether it’s increased strength and flexibility, or a better understanding of what their body needs to do to get the most from the exercise. I’ve seen scoliosis pain decrease, athletes improve their game, and the elderly move with more confidence.
We live in a society where we feel like perfection is the end goal, so it didn’t surprise me when my client told me he wanted to be perfect. My advice to him is the same advice I often have to tell myself: let the idea of perfect go. You will feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders and create more mental space to enjoy the present moment more. Still put your best effort forward—just remember to celebrate your achievements, no matter how big or small.