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The Importance of Being Independent in Your Pilates Practice

I’ll never forget the day one of my clients asked me why she should pick up the short  box, thread her straps, lower her foot bar….instead of me doing everything for her. It’s easy for me to see, as a Pilates Teacher that things we do in the studio can be all translated into our everyday errands and lives.

Let’s go back in time to Joseph Pilates’ studio on 8th avenue in New York City. You would get there for your first lesson, Joseph Pilates or Clara Pilates would teach you a few exercises on the reformer and maybe the mat and after that, a couple of lessons later, you would be on your own. Of course, there were pictures on the wall with the exercises and they would be around correcting and helping everyone as needed. Eventually, when the client was ready to progress, they would add a couple of new exercises, but that was it. No notes. You, the Reformer and your routine. That means, the client was independent since day one and they had to be focused enough in their own bodies to know what to do.

This way of working taught the client, since the very first day, that they were responsible for their own workout and their own safety in the studio. The Teacher was just a facilitator, a guide, someone who watched the client for better alignment, more effective pace in the workout, hands on adjustments, among other things. But independence goes way beyond knowing the order of exercises.

The way you pick up the box in the studio when you are connected to your center, will translate into how you pick up your groceries at the supermarket. The way you have to figure out how to sit on the short box, pick up the strap and tuck one foot after the other, takes a lot of problem solving. This may come naturally when we are young, but as we get older, simple things like that get harder. Another one, setting up the extension straps to do frogs and circles, this little maneuver teaches you a great deal of fine motor skills. Oh boy, I could spend the whole day talking about this… In short, you take Pilates to your life outside the studio if your instructor is not doing them all for you!

That’s exactly what being independent teaches you, to be self-sufficient, to recognize in your body when you go up the stairs, that you are basically doing “Going up front” on the High Chair and apply it. Or when you have to sit up, remember how to use your center just like you do during Rolling Like a Ball or the Roll Up. Being independent and remembering the things your instructor tells you in the studio will help you tremendously on making good choices outside the studio and therefore, prevent injuries.