This just in: Joseph Pilates was a genius.
I realize this with the usual Duh!/Aha! realization that is my constant companion on my journey as a teacher and practitioner of the Pilates Method. I know I run the risk of exposing my inner Pilates geek, but I’m sure some of you will not be surprised.
One of the many reasons that I personally love Pilates is because left to my own devices I have terrible posture. For this reason, the Reader’s Digest article from 1934 has been a great inspiration to me. Joseph Pilates explaining his own method – I love to get to the source as much as possible. I am just as JP describes in his article:
“Head forward – two or three inches out of alignment with the spine; shoulders rounded, chest hollowed…” and I’ve got a swayback as well and some muscular thighs…Gosh!
As an advanced practitioner I’m being pretty harsh on myself, but let’s just say if I weren’t me, I’d want to give me a pillow. But shhhh…JP is talking:
“Lie down and try to make the whole length of the spine touch the floor, likewise the shoulders and arms, stretched above the head. You can’t do it, but trying is what counts.”
So let’s see what happens. Oh, the floor, she is so unforgiving… and of course no cheating by moving my pelvis! At first I confess I feel like a three-legged table…but I must persevere…
I am now lying on the floor and wailing on achieving better neck posture and opening my chest – it seems like so much work just to get the whole line of the shoulders – across the top of the upper back – on the mat. And for one brief, shining moment I feet –although horizontal – as though my skeleton hangs vertically from the topmost point of the skull. That’s when the magic happens. With that feeling of hanging the whole body from its proper point – the ribcage softens and eases closer to the floor, the whole front of the hips and thighs relax – I know, who knew? – and my stomach draws in and up even more effortlessly. Almost as though I could use my muscles to create one long continuous line from heels to crown of head, the entire back of the body all on the mat – the key words here being “as though” because…
“You can’t do it, but trying is what counts.” Thank you, Joe.
Since I do have quite the swayback, I really wanted to see if my back could possibly be on the mat at this point. Wow! Although it felt as though it were perfectly flat to me – I could still fit my hand nearly halfway under my low back. This was the magic part – by following JP’s directive to try to get everything to be on the mat, my own anatomy had still been maintained!
It was at this point that I couldn’t help but halloo his name to the reverberate hills:
“Joseph Pilates was a genius!”
A big xo to Mr. Joe Joe.