Updated: Jul 2, 2022
Pilates has many benefits for the body which I outline in many other places but one of my favorites is the way Pilates makes a body look more "toned."
Not everyone wants to admit that how they look concerns them but when you look at the honest connection between self-esteem and physical fitness the conversation becomes more meaningful. Looking at your own body is rarely an objective experience. Our interpretation of what we see reflects our beliefs about ourselves and reinforces those beliefs.
One of the toughest scenarios is when our body hurts and movement comes with great difficulty and so we lose our fitness. This sets up a viscous cycle where because we are out of shape we get more out of shape.
Any movement, without over-doing it, can help, so what makes Pilates so special?
First of all, Joseph Pilates, the founder of the Pilates Method, transformed his own body, from a bedridden child with severe asthma to training boxers, and modeling for anatomy posters. He believed "Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure." From this perspective, a body that holds us back from this type of experience can be seen as something that deserves some time and attention. When we can learn to experience spontaneous joy and pleasure from our body than any movement is going to positively shape our appearance but as we see ourselves from within and how we are se n from without.
Q: But, some people, who do Pilates really do look different from other people who run, or do crossfit or play sports, why is that?
A; Pilates does have some specific principles and techniques that can be observed in a person's form, first of those is posture. Trying to "stand up straight" might be enough for some people, but for many of us our badies have been shaped by the positions we take throughout the hours days and decades of our lives. Regular Pilates practice transforms these patterns and creates ease and freedom in posture.
Also, Pilates seeks to build long strong muscles rather than short bulky muscles. It does this by putting the muscle into a stretch as it strengthens it. This not only has a specific look but it improves range of motion, think again of "satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure."
Finally, Pilates is designed to be done with concentration. When we practice it is a goal to develop an understanding of how our body feels and moves and to learn to have control over those things. Developing this type of control expands into other areas of our lives. When we learn to act with intention we can develop the ability to make better choices. Better choices regarding our sleep and our food directly affect our appearance. Better choices about our relationships and our goals boost our self-esteem so that we grow ever more pleased with who we are.