Why do we do Pilates? Is for the tight bottom, the lifted stomach, the mental release, the incredible posture, and the wonderful way you feel when you leave the studio compared to how you felt when you walked in? The answer is yes to all of these, but there is a more important reason—the deepest reason. Pilates improves our quality of life! The title of Joe Pilates’ book Return to Life says it all. That is truly what this work is about. The exercises will restore our vitality and vigor, they will enable us to move more freely and recalibrate our alignment and movement quality. Pilates can balance the mind and body. But to do this, we need to move the work outside the studio and into our lives.
Moving the work outside the studio is easier for an instructor—most of us live, breathe, eat, sleep, study and obsess over the work. Most of our clients, well, they do not. They come for their lesson, if we are lucky two to three times a week, but most only once. Joe himself suggests three times a week to receive the true benefits of the method. But this is not the reality for most of our clients. So how do we inspire them into the madness?
I love to use a method I call “linking behaviors.” Give them a task to add to their daily routine. Nothing big…and go slowly. If you give them too much to do, they won’t do it. It will just be heard as the students in Charlie Brown heard the voice of their teacher (okay, I just totally dated myself). They will only hear a mumble. Have you ever asked your child or partner to do a list of things all at once? You lose them after the first thing—the third thing hasn’t a chance! So here are some things you can suggest for your clients to incorporate into their lives:
Check your posture every hour on the hour. Set your watch to beep, and use this cue to remind yourself how to stand or sit, and check in with the way you stand/sit habitually.
Roll your feet before you get out of bed and before you get into bed. There are great websites with foot rolling exercises. I use the pole from the Reformer to teach my students, but they can easily buy a dowel or use a rolling pin for most of the exercises.
Put a pull-up bar in your bedroom doorway (my son had to do this when he was training for football). Every time you pass under, grab a few pull-ups or push-ups.
Footwork on the stairs. On your way up, place the balls of your feet on the edge and lower and lift your heels with each step. Feeling daring? Try it without hands!
Swipe both left and right (had to put this in for Tinder and Bumble followers). Think of how many times a day you execute this action. Now that right there will make an imbalance!
Put your groceries away and alternate sides to side-bend with both sides equally (shop the same way!).
Use household items to find a workout. Do a set of arm curls with tomato sauce cans before you open the, for example.
Find Pilates in one movement you do every day once a day.
Everything we do in the studio is to prepare us to function in our lives with greater control and efficiency. Everything we do in the studio is connected to movements we do everyday or during our evolution. As children we swung on swings, across the top of the monkey bars, tumbled every which way, jumped into the pool in a cannon ball, played tug of war, skipped, walked along the curbs one foot in front of the other, spun around and around until we collapsed to the ground, jumped and fell; we laughed a lot!
These movements helped develop certain neurological pathways that diminish if we do not use them. This is one reason we need to translate what we learn in the studio into the functions of everyday work. Train your body to find your powerhouse and prevent disaster. Train yourself to be aware. Think about if you slip on the ice, or off a curb? The faster you regain balance and control, the less likely you are to be injured. Help your students bring awareness to their actions, habits and patterns and teach them where and when they can add more balance to their movements of every day life, and make everyday, all day, a Pilates workout.
Kathryn Ross-Nash was a certified Romana’s Pilates Level 2 Trainer and is the owner of American Body Tech Pilates in Allendale, NJ. She is the creator of The Add on Mat® and The Red Thread® as well as the author of the original Fix Your Feet – Using the Pilates Method © and The Red Thread of Pilates © series.