I Don’t Mind (If you don’t mind). The Role of Intellect in Pilates

An exercise of the body cannot exist in isolation from an exercise of the mind. Pilates, as it was intended to be carried out by its forefather Joseph Pilates, was created within the parameters of mindfulness. Not solely invented for the body as a conditioning and strengthening sequence of scientifically developed exercises, Pilates was developed with the mind in mind. Inherent in the origins of the classical routine was an emphasis on the capacity for the method to strengthen the brain through repeated focus and isolation. This is to say, by training the mind and the body to focus on one (or several parts) the intellect could mindfully achieve stillness in others.

If you’ve ever heard your Pilates instructor tell you to “isolate your movement,” to a specific part of the body, this is synonymous to being told to remain still, or find the stillness, in others. A basic mat exercise known as “single leg circles” will show you that sometimes keeping the non-moving part of the body still from movement, is the hardest part. The leg that’s circling in the air interferes with the long leg on the mat, and the hips and abdominals must fight to keep grounded. This is a great metaphor for what mindfulness in Pilates is. It’s a call to focus consciously on one movement, while concentrating simultaneously on stillness. This is something that requires training and repetition, for the body will not whither opposing movements from its counterparts if it has not strengthened its center.

It should come as no surprise then, that Joseph Pilates termed his method a mindful one. It requires concentration and being present. In many ways, bringing stillness and concentration to the Pilates equipment or mat is an endeavor that will augment and enhance your practice. Next time you come in for a 55-minute session, why not challenge yourself to persist looking at the clock on the wall and look at the one inside your mind. How long can you stay focused and (figuratively speaking) “inside the room” for? When you find your thoughts starting to wander astray, listen to your instructor cueing the body and try to participate in what is going on in the studio. Are you thinking about how many more sets are left? Or are you trying to make this very one your best?

Show up to your own physical and emotional well-being. We promise that it will make for a more fulfilling hour and the challenge of remaining focused and mindful guarantees both an abdominal and soul centering experience.