My first experience with Pilates was in 2001.
I had just graduated from PT school and was working in an outpatient orthopedic clinic in Denver. They had a reformer in the clinic, and I had no clue what it was. One of our PTs was a Pilates instructor and gave a small inservice on how to use it.
“That should be easy,” I thought.
I had played soccer competitively for 18 years and had done my share of sprints, laps, wall sits and suicides. I figured I was strong and fit. While I wanted to learn something new for my clients, I definitely didn’t think I would get anything from it myself.
Thirty minutes and two jello legs later, I was put in my place and I was hooked. Nothing had made me feel that shaky and worked and I loved it.
I started training to become an instructor myself, and I never looked back.
I originally thought I would write this post about the history of Pilates and all the research and reasons that prove how wonderful it is.
I decided I kind of just wanted to tell you how much I absolutely, whole-heartedly, deep in my soul, LOVE IT.
But the reason I can do all of those things with strength and power? The reason I was able to endure a marathon birth with our daughter? The reason I am more confident now than ever before in my body? The one thing I use more than anything else as a physical therapist for my clients?
I want to share with you the top three reasons I love Pilates as a Physical Therapist and the top three reasons I love Pilates as a student. Maybe you can fall in love with it, too.
The Physical Therapy Benefits of Pilates
1) Anyone can do Pilates
In my 14 years practicing, I have NEVER met I client I couldn’t help in some way using Pilates and/or the Pilates equipment. One of my most amazing and dedicated clients just had her 86th birthday! I have seen clients with brain injuries, scoliosis, postpartum issues, MS, cancer, development delays, chronic pain and sports injuries. I have seen teenagers who injured themselves in gymnastics, and I’ve seen people with shattered bones from parachuting accidents. I’ve seen people who can’t get out of a wheelchair, and I’ve seen people who needed the help of their assistance dog to get on the equipment. Pilates is forgiving and loving and is meant for anyone who wants to improve and get better.
If you are a beginner and want to try my Pilates mat workout at home, check out this video!
2) It takes the fear out of movement and empowers people
When you are in pain, you become afraid to move. You want to feel better and get stronger, but it’s hard to know what you can do without causing more pain. So you do nothing, which makes everything worse. It’s a horrible cycle. The body WANTS to move and NEEDS to move and Pilates lets you do that in a safe way! It’s the ultimate cheerleader and encourager.
3) It focuses on the entire body and not just one piece
This is one of the toughest things about traditional rehabilitation. In school, PTs are taught about the entire body. Yet most physical therapy clinics will only focus on the injured body part due to insurance rules and time restraints. The body works as a whole, and I believe the entire body system needs to be taken into consideration to find true health and healing. Pilates allows me to treat the shoulder while simultaneously working on posture and core strengthening, which will help prevent re-injury and chronic pain in the future.
The Personal Benefits of Pilates
1) It changed my body
Nothing has had a more significant impact on my body than Pilates. This includes how it looks, but also how it functions and how it feels. I remember looking in the mirror a few months after starting Pilates and seeing a small space between my thighs. I had NEVER seen that before! While that wasn’t necessarily my goal, it was nice to see real changes in what my body looked like. More importantly, with consistent practice over the years, Pilates has helped eliminate chronic pelvic and back pain I was experiencing, and has helped me carry myself taller and with more confidence.
2) It makes me feel strong and graceful at the same time
Pilates work on the mat and reformer are meant to stretch AND strengthen at the same time! I get the resistance training I need and enjoy, but also get to feel some length and grace I never got in my soccer days. If you are on the reformer with straps and bars and springs, you are basically on a personal adult jungle gym! I get to be tough and strong and graceful and long all at once, and I love it.
3) It makes me better at everything else I do
Pilates is by no means the only exercise I do, but it truly is the reason I can do those things successfully. Pilates is why I could train for and run my first half marathon without getting injured. Pilates is why I can do yoga successfully and not lose my form. Pilates is why I sit with good posture at my desk. Pilates is why I lasted through 43 hours of labor with 4 hours of pushing during the birth of my daughter. I am strong. I am confident. I am flexible. I am not afraid of trying new things. This truly is because of my journey in Pilates.
I truly think everyone could benefit in some way from Pilates. I think anyone looking for physical therapy would benefit from finding a PT who also does Pilates. But I don’t think everyone needs it or would love it. It’s not for everyone, which is true for every fitness activity!
To see real benefits from a Pilates program, you need to be ready and be willing to work. You need to think about movement and get into your body. You need to be willing to commit and give it 4-8 weeks before seeing the difference. With those things in place, Pilates can help make permanent changes in how you look and feel! And just maybe you can hang upside down sometimes :).
Click here for my FREE bonus Pilates home workout, as well as Happy Hour Mama meal plans and a food journal!